Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Meet My Character!

I've been tagged by the lovely Emily Kate Muyskens to participate in the Writerly Meme (Meet My Character) blog tour. I think you're supposed to use meme(s) to describe/show your character and answer several questions about your character. (I hope I'm doing this right!)

Instead of introducing Ben, my protagonist, I thought it'd be fun to introduce a character he befriends. She's important behind the scenes and was really fun to write.

Jennifer loves long-haired guys

1. What is the name of your character? Is she a fictional person or a historic person?

Jennifer is fictional, but she could totally be real.

2. When and where is the story set?

The story takes place during the summer of 1992 in Bay Haven, Maine. (A fictional tourist town on Maine's coast.)

Mr. Mittens?

3. What should we know about your character?

She's eighteen, a chain-smoker, a metal head (glam metal is her fave sub-genre), blonde, tattooed, and obsessed with Bret Michaels. Her best friend is Mitch. She's not afraid to sing at the top of her lungs in a car full of people.

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?

Her main conflict (not the conflict of the story) is probably that she's stuck in Maine and has no way of following Poison across the country on tour. Plus, Bret Michaels has no idea she exists.

5. What is the personal goal of the character?

Besides meeting Bret and getting him to fall in love with her, Jennifer's main goal is to live life to its fullest. She's not afraid to take chances.

6. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

Yes. It's called THE TREASURE HUNT.

7. When can we expect the book to be published?

Someday, hopefully!

I tag my awesome CP and friend Katie Bucklein. She writes epic fantasy about pirates and sea monsters! If you'd also like to be tagged, let me know in the comments!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Pitch Wars Bio


I'm Melody Marshall, and I'm entering THE TREASURE HUNT, a YA contemporary, into Pitch Wars 2014.

London in April 2010

A little about me:

I live in New Hampshire with my husband, two pit bulls, and cat. I have a BA in Communication Arts, and I also have an MEd in Secondary Education with art certification. I've worked in daycare/education since I was in high school. All my hobbies are related to creativity: drawing, painting, photography, and writing.

For a while, I considered myself to be a YA sci-fi/fantasy writer… until I had the idea for THE TREASURE HUNT. It took a while to wrap my head around writing something without magic or sci-fi elements (or how it'd fit in with my other mss), but I eventually realized THE TREASURE HUNT is closer to my heart than anything else I've written.

Okay, I feel awkward talking about myself, so I'll just list some random things about me:

  • I dip potato chips in yellow mustard.
  • Spaceballs was my favorite movie growing up. My brother and I could recite the entire thing. (He was always Lone Starr and I was always Barf.) I asked my brother to get a Spaceballs tattoo with me, but I haven't been able to convince him…yet.
  • In middle school, I only read adult sci-fi. (Mostly Michael Crichton.) JURASSIC PARK is still one of my favorite books/movies.
  • I love the Real Housewives on Bravo. I don't even care. (If you're curious, Orange County and Atlanta are my favorite cities.)
  • I'm obsessed with A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE by George R. R. Martin. So far, A STORM OF SWORDS is my favorite in the series. I love Tyrion and Arya. 
  • Even though spring and fall are my favorite seasons, I LOVE snow days.
  • I always have lip gloss with me.
  • I like a range of music from One Direction to Metallica to Ellie Goulding. My favorite band/singer to listen to is always changing, but Pink Floyd is my absolute favorite band, ever.
  • I try to eat vegetarian most of the time.
  • I prefer to write in the morning.
  • I really like Teen Wolf, but I can't convince any of my friends to watch with me. This makes me super sad. 
  • Believe it or not, Doctor Who (River Song in particular) inspired me to write THE TREASURE HUNT.
  • I collect foreign editions of HARRY POTTER.
  • I really like Star Wars, but I'd totally fail a trivia contest! For some reason, I can't keep names and places straight in that universe. 

 Las Vegas in 2012

Some of my favorite books/series: HARRY POTTER (The Half-Blood Prince if I had to pick a favorite), A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE by George R.R. Martin (ASOS!), VAMPIRE ACADEMY by Richelle Mead, UNWIND by Neal Shusterman, THE UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld, SLOPPY FIRSTS by Megan McCafferty, FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell, JURASSIC PARK by Michael Crichton, PERCY JACKSON by Rick Riordan, DARK PLACES by Gillian Flynn, THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES by Anne Rice, and NIGHT by Elie Wiesel. I could list a ton more, but those are just some off the top of my head.

Selfie with my puppy

Some of my favorite movies: Jurassic Park, Beetlejuice, Pitch Perfect, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Lion King, Back to the Future 1&2, The Wedding Singer, Hot Tub Time Machine, Spaceballs, A League of Their Own, and Terminator 2.

Jackson is never amused

Some of my favorite TV shows: The Walking Dead, The Real Housewives, Teen Wolf, The Originals, Supernatural, Modern Family, Mad Men, season 1 of Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, Orange is the New Black, BBC Sherlock, Project Runway, and Doctor Who.

They think you should pick me for Pitch Wars!

Many thanks to Brenda Drake and all the mentors involved in Pitch Wars! Good luck to all the contestants! <3

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Writing Process Blog Tour


The lovely EM Castellan invited me to join the Writing Process Blog Tour. She's super-sweet and is my CP's CP. (Does that make us CP cousins or something?) She's represented by Erin Niumata of Folio Literary and writes YA fantasy. She's also a contributor at There and Draft Again. You can find her on Twitter or her blog (where she always uses the coolest GIFs).

What am I currently working on?

I'm currently revising a YA romance called THE TREASURE HUNT, which I'm hoping will be done in time to enter Pitch Wars in August. TTH takes place in a coastal town in Maine during the summer of 1992. There's a treasure hunt, mixed-tapes, a secret admirer, and lots of late '80s and early '90s metal. (Here's my inspiration board if you're interested!)

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I usually write sci-fi or fantasy, so THE TREASURE HUNT differs from everything else I've ever written. But as far as how it differs from other YA romances, I'd say I haven't seen too many featuring metal heads. Also, my characters are often wooed by their love interests with food and drink.

Why do I write what I write?

As EM Castellan said in her post, I write things that I'd like to read. As a writer, you have to read your manuscript AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN, so it's important you write something you wouldn't mind reading over and over!

How does my individual writing process work?

I write down all my ideas in a Word Doc, so I don't forget them. When I have an idea that won't go away and I find myself thinking about it all the time, I realize it's time to work on it. I'm not much of a plotter. I usually have an idea about how it ends, but I'm not quite sure how I'm going to get there. (STRANGE ATTRACTORS is probably the only manuscript I really tried to plot out.) With THE TREASURE HUNT, I just started writing. I thought I knew a few things that were going to happen, but my characters ended up making up their own minds about how things were going to go. Other than the secret admirer and the treasure hunt, I figured the story out as I went.

I don't share my writing with anyone until I've gone through the rough draft a few times. I usually send my manuscript to one CP at a time. After I get their critique, I revise what needs to be revised before sending it to someone else, and so on.

Now it's time to tag some friends!

My wonderful CP Steph Sessa who writes YA SF. Because of her, I'm obsessed with Doctor Who (especially Eleven)!

My writer friend Emily Kate Muyskens who writes YA SF/F. We met through an online writing contest, and we also met in real life(!) at the NESCBWI conference in Springfield, MA.

If you'd like to be tagged, let me know in the comments! :)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

An ABC Review of MORE THAN MUSIC & RRR Interview with Elizabeth Briggs

I recently purchased and read the e-book for MORE THAN MUSIC by Elizabeth Briggs. I really liked it and thought it'd be fun to do another ABC review and RRR interview. (If you missed my first ABC/RRR post, it's here.) So here we go!

Here's the book blurb for MORE THAN MUSIC:

Music major Maddie Taylor just finished her junior year of college and has a summer internship lined up with the LA Philharmonic, yet every night she practices guitar and secretly dreams of a louder life. But geeky girls like her don't get to be rock stars. That is, until tattooed singer Jared Cross catches her playing guitar and invites her to join his band on The Sound, a reality TV show competition.
Once on the show, Maddie discovers there's more to Jared than his flirty smile and bad boy reputation - and that he's just as big a geek as she is. With each performance their attraction becomes impossible to ignore, but when the show pressures them to stay single they're forced to keep their relationship secret.
As the competition heats up, Jared will do whatever it takes for his band to win, and Maddie must decide if following her dream is worth losing her heart.

MORE THAN MUSIC is now available for purchase from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

The cover is great, and I loved the cool guitar graphics inside the book. This was super-fun to read--I probably finished it in only a couple sittings. I really loved all the references to super heroes, movies, and real-life bands. Jurassic Park is one of my all-time favorite books/movies, so I especially got a kick out of the Jurassic Park/John Williams reference. 

This was actually the first New Adult book I'd ever read, and I think it was a good one for a first-time NA reader. If you like romance, music, reality shows, or super heroes (or villains!), I really think you'll enjoy this book.



The story moves quickly, which I liked. There's some drama involved with the reality show that I didn't expect, and there's lots of sexual tension that keeps the reader interested. It was easy to get sucked into the story and Elizabeth's writing. Elizabeth's knowledge of and love for music really showed during the performance scenes.


MORE THAN MUSIC mostly takes place on the set of The Sound--a reality TV show. It's easy to picture the setting as you read, especially if you've watched American Idol or The Voice. A good portion of the story takes place behind the scenes of the show, and I thought it was interesting to see what reality show contestants do when they're not in front of the camera.


The four main characters--the members of the band--are Maddie, Hector, Jared, and Kyle. Maddie is a sweet, very relatable character. She starts off a bit insecure, not feeling like she fits in, but she soon gains confidence on (and off) stage. Hector is the curly-haired drummer, who probably gives Maddie the hardest time when she first joins the band. Jared and Kyle are brothers. Kyle, the younger brother, is the keyboardist and Maddie's friend at the beginning of the book. Jared is the swoon-worthy singer with a reputation for sleeping around.

I liked all the characters, and I found it easy to imagine what they were like. Even if I hadn't heard beforehand that Elizabeth pictured Jared Leto as Jared, I still probably would have imagined him as the singer!

And now a little bit about Elizabeth Briggs:

Elizabeth Briggs is a full-time geek who writes books for teens and adults. She plays the guitar, mentors at-risk teens, and volunteers with a dog rescue group. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and a pack of small, fluffy dogs.

Some MORE THAN MUSIC questions:

I heard you pictured Jared Leto as Jared Cross while writing MORE THAN MUSIC. Did you cast any of the other characters with celebrities?

Yep, I picture Jared Cross as a younger Jared Leto, back when he had short hair. I imagine Hector looks like the drummer for Incubus, Jose Pasillas, while Kyle looks like The Neighbourhood's singer, Jesse Rutherford. 

If Villain Complex could tour with any real-life band(s), who would they choose?

It would probably be cheating to say Thirty Seconds To Mars, so I’ll go with Linkin Park or Muse – they both put on amazing shows and would probably have a lot of the same fans as Villain Complex.

If Maddie, Jared, Kyle, and Hector were villains, who would they be?

This will actually come up in one of the novellas, MORE THAN COMICS, when they go to Comic-Con! Jared and Maddie would be the Joker and Harley Quinn, of course. Though I could see them as Magneto and Mystique if we went for X-men villains instead. Jared would also make a pretty hot Loki. But if we stick with a Batman theme (with Maddie’s friends Carla and Julie as Catwoman and Poison Ivy), Hector would be Bane and Kyle would be the Riddler. 


What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading FORTUNE’S RISK by Jamie Grey, which is a novella set after her New Adult sci-fi THE STAR THIEF. I love this series!

Do you bring a book with you every place you go, or do you mainly read in one place?

I mainly read in bed or on my couch, with one of my dogs curled up at my side. I will bring a book (or my kindle) with me if I know I’ll be sitting around somewhere.

What is your favorite book to recommend to other people?

A lot of people ask me for other New Adult books that are light and geeky like mine, so I always point them to MAKE IT COUNT by Megan Erickson. It’s tons of fun and has a nerdy-cute guy in it, too.


What time of day do you prefer to write?

I prefer to write in the afternoon and early evening. I tend to do most of the business side of writing in the morning – answering emails, writing blog posts, and so forth – but as soon as that’s done I can start writing.

Do you need to eat or drink something while writing?

I write fastest when I chug Coke, but this isn’t particularly good for me, so I’m trying to break this habit.

Do you listen to music while writing? If so, do you listen to different types of music while drafting and revising?

I listen to music both when drafting and revising, but the type of music depends on the book. For MORE THAN MUSIC I listened to all the songs the band plays throughout the book on repeat to try to capture the feel of them. But for my YA novels I listened to movie scores, such as Inception and Tron Legacy. This partly inspired Maddie’s love of movie scores!


When you’re not writing (or thinking about writing), what do you do to unwind?

I watch TV shows on Netflix for hours until it asks me “are you still watching?” Right now I’m rewatching Scrubs.

What’s your not-so-guilty pleasure?

I read a lot of sexy romance novels and drink a lot of wine. I don’t feel particularly guilty about either of those though!

Do you have any other creative outlets besides writing?

I also play the guitar, though I don’t have time to practice as much as I’d like. I learned how to play all the songs that Maddie plays in MORE THAN MUSIC though!

If you'd like a taste of the songs referenced in the book, here's the playlist for MORE THAN MUSIC:  

Thanks so much Elizabeth for doing the interview!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Music and Writing

I can't write in silence. I need music while writing, but the type of music always changes depending on where I am in the writing process.

I need noise when drafting, but lyrics distract me. So I like to listen to movie/television soundtracks.  My favorites are Game of Thrones by Ramin Djawadi, BBC Sherlock by David Arnold and Michael Price, Downton Abbey by The Chamber Orchestra of London, Harry Potter by John Williams and Alexandre Desplat, Doctor Who by Murray Gold and BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Les Revenants by Mogwai, The Lord of the Rings by Howard Shore, and Jurassic Park by John Williams.

But when I'm editing or revising, I can handle listening to lyrics. Lately, my favorite singers or bands to listen to are Florence + The Machine, Ellie Goulding, MS MR, Lana Del Rey, Lorde, and Marina and The Diamonds.

With every manuscript (or unfinished WIP), I have listened to soundtracks while drafting and select bands or singers during revising/editing. At least I did up until THE TREASURE HUNT. With THE TREASURE HUNT, I listened to metal bands throughout the entire writing process. I think for this ms it helped me connect with my characters since music and mixed tapes play a big part in the story. I mostly listened to Metallica (Ride the Lightning, …And Justice for All, Master of Puppets, and the black album). I also listened to Slayer, Pantera, Testament, Skid Row, Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden, and Megadeth. Ben, the main character, likes grunge/alternative, so sometimes I listened to a select few songs by The Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Mother Love Bone, and Nirvana.

With THICK AS THIEVES, my Camp Nano WIP, I've tried to stick with sci-fi soundtracks. So far, I've enjoyed listening to Star Trek by Michael Giancchino (thanks to Stephanie Garber for the suggestion!), Fringe: Season 1 by Chad Seiter, Chris Tilton, and Michael Giancchino, Thor by Patrick Doyle, and Doctor Who by Murray Gold and BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

What do you listen to while drafting, revising, and editing?

Friday, June 27, 2014


It's common knowledge that a good critique partner is one of the most important things a writer can have.

The hard part is finding one you mesh with.

For me, finding critique partners took a long time. I looked online, mostly emailing other writers on CP match-up blog posts. And out of all the writers I emailed, I think only one emailed me back--but it was to say she already had her share of CPs and wished me luck in my search. When I wasn't having any luck finding an online CP, I looked for a local in-person writing group. But I couldn't find an in-person group that met my needs.

And then one day, the amazing Brenda Drake tweeted about CPSeek. It's exactly what it sounds like--a website dedicated to finding critique partners. I signed up right away and started reading query letters posted by other writers. I was too chicken to post my own, and instead I decided to approach two writers who had posted query letters that sounded interesting. I messaged them, asking if they'd want to trade first chapters. They both agreed!

While they both had different critiquing styles, they were both kind and constructive. Knowing what kind of critique partner you want is important. I'm a tad sensitive, so I prefer CPs who are truthful but kind in their critiquing style. (Or CPs who use HARRY POTTER references in their critiques!)

Contests are another great way to find critique partners. Last year, I found two more awesome critique partners through Brenda Drake's PITCH WARS contest. Twitter pitch parties are also helpful. I haven't found CPs or Beta-readers through pitch parties, but I know people who have. (Plus they are a great way to meet new online writer friends!)

And when you find good CPs, don't let them go!

There's nothing better than having someone you can vent to, brainstorm with, or cheer for. And I know I couldn't get through revising and querying without them. And without them, I wouldn't be obsessed with DOCTOR WHO or REIGN, the sight of Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Oreos wouldn't make me smile, and I wouldn't have had the guts to sign up for a manuscript critique at NESCBWI. I <3 mine and consider them all great friends.

A, have you tried these?!
Hugs and thanks to Ambiguous A, Steph Sessa, Julie Dao, and Katie Bucklein for being the best CPs around!

Also, hugs and thanks to my awesome Pitch Wars mentor, Stephanie Garber! (If you're thinking about entering Pitch Wars this year, you should definitely submit to her. She's the best!)

How about you? Any CP stories? Shout outs to your awesome CPs or Beta readers?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Writing Inspiration

Where do you get your story ideas?

My ideas usually pop out of nowhere. I'll be driving, cleaning, at the gym, or making dinner when I'll get an idea or a feeling for a story. It's totally random. Sometimes I'll get several shiny-new-ideas in a week, and other times I'll go months with no new ideas.

And sometimes I'll get new ideas inspired by something else. The inspiration for THE TREASURE HUNT was a random idea inspired by DOCTOR WHO. This sounds completely strange--my LGBT historical romance being inspired by a British sci-fi show--but it's true. The idea of River Song leaving messages for the Doctor across time and space sparked something for me. (I mean, how cool is that?) Initially, I thought THE TREASURE HUNT was going to involve love letters with some sort of time travel element, but the sci-fi elements eventually fell away, leaving me with a treasure hunt with metal heads set in 1992.

But the inspiration for STRANGE ATTRACTORS came about in a different way. Instead of it popping out of nowhere, I was looking for a new idea. I was out for Mexican food with my husband for our anniversary when I asked him to tell me some interesting science-related topics that I could include in a YA sci-fi. He listed several, like solar flares and and nuclear fallout, but the last idea about someone being able to travel between the multiverse really sparked something for me. I immediately pictured Piper and thought of ways she could travel through universes.

Sometimes these ideas come to me fully-formed and are easy to turn into a story, but other times I really have to think about them. STRANGE ATTRACTORS came together fairly quickly. I almost immediately knew Piper was a teen spy, but her motivation wasn't always the same. THE TREASURE HUNT, on the other hand, took a lot of pondering. I mean, initially it started out as a sci-fi. But when I couldn't think of a way for the characters to send love letters through time, it became a historical romance involving a treasure hunt instead.

What's your craziest story inspiration? Do you involve other people in your brainstorming?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

An ABC Review of BLACKFIN SKY & RRR Interview with Kat Ellis

I recently had the chance to read BLACKFIN SKY by Kat Ellis. (I won an ARC of the US edition through a Twitter giveaway.) 

Here's the book blurb:

Just like any other morning, Skylar Rousseau is late for school, but when she is greeted by a blanket of silent stares upon entering Blackfin High, she discovers that the whole town thought she fell from the pier and drowned on her sixteenth birthday three months earlier. However, Sky remembers the last three months living her life as normal, and since she is a full, living breathing human being, she has no idea whose body is buried underneath her tombstone. Everyone seems reluctant to help except her steadfast friend and crush, Sean . . . and a secretive man who draws her to a mysterious circus in the woods. Sky must wade through impossibilities and lies to discover the truth about what happened to her, which proves to be a bit difficult when someone is following her every move with the intent to harm her. And Sky’s only hope of finding the answers she seeks may have already been turned to ashes.

BLACKFIN SKY is now available for purchase in the UK and available for preorder in the US. (US release date is September 2, 2014.) 

First, I LOVE the cover! It's so perfect. The UK cover is great, too.

This was so much fun to read. Reviewing this is difficult, though, because I don't want to give anything away. There are so many mysteries surrounding Skylar and the other characters in BLACKFIN SKY that if I say anything it'll probably spoil something big. Sooo you should just take my word for it and read it! ;-)

Because BLACKFIN SKY is so unique (and I want to avoid spoilers!), I thought it would be fun to do the review a little different and theme it around the ABCs.



The story of BLACKFIN SKY moves quickly without feeling rushed. I was never bored or wondering when something would happen. Just enough of the mystery was revealed throughout the story to keep me reading and wondering what happens next. From the very first page, reading from the point-of-view of Silas, the haunted weathervane, I was hooked!  

My initial thoughts about the mystery surrounding Sky were wrong, and I was really surprised when I found out what actually happened to her. I think BLACKFIN SKY would appeal to fans of Les Revenants. (Sky's reemergence in Blackfin reminded me a little of Camille's in Les Revenants.)


While Kat Ellis created a town completely unlike any town around, it felt very familiar and real at the same time. The town of Blackfin is mysterious and quirky. I mean, there's a haunted weathervane and a well that steals your loose change if you walk too close! I think that speaks of Kat's magic as a writer--these quirky things all feel very real and possible.  


Skylar Rousseau is a great heroine. I immediately liked her and wanted to know what happened during her three month absence. Even with her otherness, she feels like any other girl. She could be your best friend.

Sean Vega is a refreshing love interest with his grandpa cardigans, dorky glasses, and strawberry licorice always dangling from his mouth. I also liked that he's just a nice guy. Because there are so many complicated bad boys, someone like Sean is a breath of fresh air.  

If I name or explain about anyone else from BLACKFIN SKY, I'm afraid it'll give things away...

Now it's time for my interview with Kat Ellis!

Some BLACKFIN SKY questions:

What inspired you to write BLACKFIN SKY? Did you get the initial spark and immediately start writing, or did you think about it a while before writing?

I knew the hook before I began: that Sky died and came back 3 months later, and couldn’t understand why her recollection of events was so different from everyone else’s. But (and this is unusual for me) I hadn’t written an outline before I started drafting, so I hit a bit of a stumbling block when I realised I had no idea what had actually happened to Sky. I spent a few weeks mulling it over before a fateful visit to the circus with my sister and niece helped me to fill in the missing pieces. 

Have you casted any of the characters in BLACKFIN SKY in your head with celebrities?

Ha! Of course. I’d cast Dakota Fanning as Sky, and Robert Sheehan as Sean, her love interest. I’m not sure about the rest, except for Sky’s father, Gui – I’d have Tom Hardy to play him, looking like he did in the film Bronson (though Gui is a very different character from Charles Bronson…)

Other than the characters in BLACKFIN SKY, are there any literary characters you could see Sky being friends with? Or enemies?

I could definitely imagine her being friends with Cas Lowood from ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD; they have the same almost weary acceptance of the bizarre nature of the world around them, although I like to think that Sky has better taste in love interests ;) I think Willow in the ANGEL series by L A Weatherly would also make a good friend for Sky. In terms of enemies… Sky probably has enough of her own to be going on with!


What are you currently reading?

I’m about to start WE WERE LIARS by E Lockhart - mostly because nearly everyone I know has already read it, and I’m bound to stumble on a spoiler if I don’t read it soon!

Do you bring a book with you every place you go or do you mainly read in one place?

I tend to travel with a book or two, but if I’m going anywhere far I’ll take my kindle; I worry I’ll somehow become a super-fast reader the minute I hit the motorway, and will run out of things to read if I don’t have my overstuffed kindle.

What's your favorite book to recommend to other people?

UNWIND by Neal Shusterman, mostly because it’s less well known than a lot of my other favourite reads, and you really can’t beat it for great, creepy SF!


What time of day do you prefer to write?

I’m a night owl; I generally start mid-afternoon and work into the wee small hours.

Do you need to eat or drink something while writing?

Oh god yes! I mainline coffee…although I tend to forget to eat, so I quite often get lovely little caffeine headaches.

Do you listen to music while writing? If so, do you listen to different types of music while drafting and revising?

I make playlists for each manuscript I work on, and sometimes play those in the background. Other times I find random songs, or work in silence. It’s very much mood-dependant.


When you’re not writing (or thinking about writing), what do you do to unwind?

I read, which really does feel like a luxury sometimes, and I mess around on my piano and guitar.

What’s your not-so-guilty pleasure?

The TV show Catfish. People on that show are INSANE, but it’s kind of addictive.

Do you have any other creative outlets besides writing?

I love travelling around North Wales taking photographs of forests and castles and stuff like that. I post quite a lot of them to my Tumblr.

Thank you so much Kat for being brave enough to be the first interview on my blog! You can find Kat on Twitter or on her blog. A few places you can find BLACKFIN SKY: Amazon, B&N, Book Depository

Sunday, May 18, 2014

NESCBWI 2014 & Meeting CPs IRL

If you read my first post, you know that I recently went to my second NESCBWI conference. This post was going to be about the conference, but I think other people have blogged about NESCBWI 2014 better than I could…so this may turn into a post about something else. We'll see!

In my daily life, I don't talk about writing with other people. Only a few select people know that I write (and even less know I'm a querying writer). I think a lot of other writers are the same way. Most people don't understand the publication process and everything that goes along with it, so it's hard to talk to non-writers (even friends and family) about the things you're going through. (Things like: form rejections, no responses, or your MC being difficult and not doing what she's supposed to do.)

This is what makes writers' conferences so much fun. You're surrounded by your peers, by people who know what you're going through. You can commiserate about the querying process and share tips and tricks. There's nothing better than talking to other writers.

Well, almost nothing. The one thing that's even better is getting the chance to talk face-to-face with online critique partners--people who have actually read your manuscript! CPs have fallen in love with your characters, told you when they hate your MC, helped you fix a previously unsolvable problem, been a personal sounding board for you, etc.

I finally had the chance to meet one of mine at the conference. I made plans with Julie Dao, my Pitch Wars teammate and critique partner, to go to the NESCBWI conference. She'd never been before, and we thought it would be a great opportunity for us to meet there. It was so awesome to finally meet in person. (Julie's the first writer friend that I've ever met IN REAL LIFE.)

We met on Friday afternoon in the hotel lobby. There was lots of smiling and hugging! After saying hello, we went in search of a Starbucks so we could sit and chat. Even though I was pretty sure there was a Starbucks around somewhere, we couldn't find one. We ended up going to a coffee shop that was in the mall across the street from the hotel instead. Because we had SO MUCH that we wanted to say, we started laughing, not knowing where to even start.  The time flew by. It was so easy to talk to each other and to talk about our manuscripts. It was so freeing, so cool, to be able to talk about our characters (in depth) with someone else who had read our stories. After coffee, we continued talking at dinner. (Julie made reservations at Nadim's, which was right near the hotel.)

Later that night, there was a Meet and Greet for the conference attendees in the hotel. I'd been too chicken to go by myself the previous year but this year, with Julie by my side, I wasn't as nervous! I didn't speak with any agents, but Julie was able to talk with an agent who has her full manuscript. It was awesome to see her so excited! I didn't speak to any agents, but I did run into a friend from Twitter, Emily Kate Muyskens. (Emily and I had met online through Cupid's Literary Connection's Blind Speed Dating Contest.) She was super-sweet and Julie and I met up with her again on Saturday.

Julie and I signed up for the same workshops on Saturday (Manuscript Revisions with Mandy Hubbard and Write What You Don't Know with Julie Berry and Kendra Levin). We both had great manuscript critiques. (Mine was with an agent and hers was with an editor.) Overall, it was a great time!

How about you? Have you ever met online critique partners IN REAL LIFE?

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Writer's Voice Entry - STRANGE ATTRACTORS (YA sci-fi)



Dear Writer's Voice coaches,

With the weight of the multiverse on her shoulders, it’s a wonder that seventeen-year-old Piper Newton doesn’t have to see a chiropractor.

As a corporate spy, Piper uses her unique ability to travel between universes to obtain lucrative information for her father and his company. But when she discovers that a parallel version of her father’s most-hated competitor is experimenting on the veils between universes, the gravity of her next spy mission threatens to break her back. 

Her father asks her to infiltrate the company through the competitor’s son, Calvin James. Dating--even for a mission--is the last thing she wants to do. Guys lie and cheat and are more destructive than superluminous supernovae. But because Piper and her father believe the damage caused by Calvin’s father’s experimentation will create a black-hole-like-void, ultimately destroying both universes, she knows she has to do something--even if that means hooking up with a cocky jerk like Calvin James.

To Piper’s surprise, Calvin quickly disarms her with his intelligence, quesadilla-making-skills, and butterfly-effect-smile. She’s soon sneaking off to the parallel universe to see Calvin behind her father’s back and neglecting to tell him everything she learns. She rationalizes that his father is more mad-scientist than sinister-villain and wonders if they were wrong about Calvin’s father. He’s only studying the veils. He’s not trying to be malicious.

But when red flags start appearing and lies begin unraveling around her, Piper’s shocked to learn she put her trust in the wrong person.

And she’s going to need the help of a former enemy to exact revenge.

STRANGE ATTRACTORS, a young adult sci-fi, is complete at 80,500 words. It is a standalone with series potential.

First 250 words:


I couldn’t find anything on Michael Silverstone’s desk because it was a complete disaster, like a hoarder-snuck-into-an-office-building type of disaster. As I looked through the receipts, hand written notes, half-eaten food, and coffee-stained papers, I wondered how someone so messy could be organized enough to run New York City’s most successful financial advising company. This extreme amount of junk was like an inexpensive theft-deterrent or more like an inexpensive Piper-deterrent.

What the Hell? I thought, touching a still-wet, soiled napkin. There were words scrawled across the napkin, but “purch-dia-glass” didn’t really tell me anything. I had a knack for remembering random bits of information and passwords, so I made a mental note of the phrase in case it was important.


I cursed under my breath before turning off my stopwatch. Time was up. I quickly stacked all the papers with numbers or percentages in the hope that something important made it into the pile. Since Silverstone’s desk was such a mess, I didn’t worry about him noticing a few missing documents. He would probably assume he’d misplaced them.

I paused, thinking I’d seen a flash of light, and listened. The muffled sound of footsteps on carpet soon followed. Someone was in the hallway! My heart hammered as I slipped beneath the disordered desk. I pulled a knife from my pocket and held it in front of me. 

Thanks for your time and consideration!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Going to a Conference for the First Time & NESCBWI 2014

As a new writer, thinking about going to a conference can be intimidating.

Last year, I went to my first ever conference (NESCBWI in Springfield, Ma). Since it was my first conference (and I was all alone), I only went for one out of the three days. I thought it would be a good idea to just get my feet wet and see if I even liked going to conferences. I'd decided to shelve my MS, so I didn't sign up for a MS critique or participate in any of the pitch sessions.

I had no idea what to expect and didn't know anyone who was going, so I was really nervous. I consider myself to be a shy person, so the thought of going to a giant conference without knowing a single person was really scary! Plus, at the time, I was super-new to the writing community. (I hadn't even found critique partners yet.) You could say I was more than a little intimidated about going.

But, I'm happy to say, those fears were unwarranted.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn how warm and inviting the writing community can be. I found several friendly people to buddy up with during the day. All it took was a smile and a "Hi! This is my first conference!" and people were glad to help me out or invite me to join their group. Probably the most intimidating part throughout the day was finding a seat during the sit-down lunch. (It felt a little like trying to find a seat in the cafeteria on the first day of school.) I had to go a little out of my comfort zone to approach a table of lovely ladies and ask if I could join them. Like I said, the writers I met at this conference were all super-nice, so they greeted me warmly and asked my name and what I write.

What do you write? 

I wasn't prepared for how many times I'd have to answer that question! In my day-to-day life, I don't talk about writing with other people, so talking about it was strange (but great!). People will also ask  what your book is about/what your pitch is. I hadn't practiced my pitch, so I was like, "Uh, my book is about this girl who, um…" (I probably should have practiced it once or twice!)

 I only got a taste of the conference and everything it offered, but I had a good time and felt like I still got a lot out of it.

My top four tips:

  • Practice your pitch beforehand. (Especially if you're shy. You want to be able to explain what your book is about.) I've heard having business cards with your info and pitch on them are a good idea, too.
  • Smile and have fun!
  • Connect with other writers and ask about their writing. You may find critique partners!
  • If you're nervous about attending (or can't spend the $), try signing up for a portion of the conference. If you have a good time, you can always sign up for more the following year!

This weekend, I will be going to my second ever NESCBWI conference. Obviously, it will be a different experience this time around. I know what to expect this time and I know some people who will be attending. Another change this year is I'm doing a manuscript critique with an agent. I've had critiques before but never face-to-face. This is a little (a lot!) scary, but it should be good! But the best part about going this year is that I will finally meet one of my Pitch Wars teammates, Julie Dao, IN REAL LIFE! Yay!

A lot can happen in a year. Since going to that first conference, I've gotten several critique partners, been in two contests (Pitch Wars 2013 and Cupid's Literary Connection's Blind Speed Dating 2014), and started querying my young adult sci-fi, STRANGE ATTRACTORS. I can't wait for NESCBWI 2014 to learn even more and meet more great people!

What are your experiences with conferences? Do you have any tips or advice?