My local library has a summer reading program. My kids' school is trying to get into the Guinness Book of World Records for most hours read in the summer, no lie. High schools have assigned reads ranging from To Kill a Mockingbird to The Fault in Our Stars, sigh. And me, I have my usual stack of delectable books that I can not wait to dive into. In fact, I already have. My stack appears random to a passerby, but to those who really know me, each title makes sense at some level or another. I was at the beach last week, translation, "Let The Summer Reading Begin." I read Sara Zarr's How to Save a Life - loved it! And then totally changed it up with C.S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters - blew my mind, had a copy from the library, need to get my own copy, so I can underline it like crazy! Next in my pile are Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen, Seeing Through Stones by Rajdeep Paulus and Pulitzer Prize winner, Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.
If you're still adding to your stack, Playlist Fiction has an a-ma-zing deal for you this week! Five phenomenal young adult titles for only $5! Actually slightly less, they're only 99 cents each! What? It's true. So, fill up your Kindle or phone, or iPad, or whatever device you read on with these great titles from ground-breaking young adult authors Laura Anderson Kurk, Rajdeep Paulus, Jennifer Murgia and Stephanie Morrill. And, oh yeah! My book, It's Complicated is only 99 cents this week too!
How about you? Any suggestions for my summer reading pile? What's on your summer reading list?
Today is Black Friday.
And although several stores actually opened on Thanksgiving this year, after running the Turkey Trot and eating second helpings of stuffing and sweet potatoes, I wasn’t in the mood to hit the mall last night. So, I’m still counting today as the first official shopping day of the Christmas season. With Christmas shopping comes lists. Lists of what to buy family members, friends, teammates and classmates. Don’t forget a list of gifts for teachers and mailmen, coaches and co-workers. Lists of recitals to attend and Christmas specials to catch on TV. Grocery lists too, to make sure all the secret ingredients are purchased for perfect feasts and casual gatherings.
My dear friend, Amy Parker (who just happens to be a best-selling author of more than twenty books for kids, teens and adults) was having a conversation with a friend of hers, Frederick, who lives in Rwanda. She asked him what was on his Christmas list. He was completely confused by her question—baffled. In Rwanda people don’t make Christmas lists. They aren’t hoping for new riding boots or the latest iPad. Instead they make a special offering to their church and hand out rice to the poorest of the poor on the streets.
No lists. As in none?
This conversation changed Amy. It changed the way she wanted Christmas to look like for her family, so she wrote the beautiful, soulful picture book, My Christmas List. It will change the way you see Christmas, as well. What if our lists read…
“A mom for the girl in China,
A daddy would be great, too,
And, Lord, that boy in Zambia, he’s running out of food.”
Now don’t get me wrong, I love shopping for my favorite people, finding things that will make them smile, and watching them unwrap their packages. I also enjoy getting gifts. Who doesn’t? I’d be lying if I said there weren’t a few things I’m hoping for this year under the tree.
But Amy’s book explores ways we can help, people we can pray for, things we can do to make a difference. Do you know someone in need? Ever wonder what Christmas is like at their house?
Christmas is the day to celebrate that “God so loved the world, that He sent His only begotten son, so that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16
For your chance to win your very own copy of My Christmas List visit Amy’s website and submit a story or photo prior to December 10 of how you and your family are making a difference this Christmas.
What kind of birthday party do you think Jesus would have? What do you think would be on His list? And if we’re called to become more and more like Him, well…that makes me rethink my list too.
Today, I am excited to share with you the haunting cover for my friend and fellow Playlist Fiction author, Jennifer Murgia's newest book. Jennifer has a gift for writing page turners full of suspense. She describes herself as "writing dark and moody things", which cracks me up, because she is one of the sweetest, loveliest people you could ever meet. Here's the inside scoop on her upcoming novel.
Raised by an old fortune-teller within the dark veil of the Bavarian Black Forest, Rune has learned two valuable lessons: only take from the forest that which you can use, and never, never look anyone in the eye in the village. For something terrible happened in the forest long ago... and now, the whispers of a long-dead mother with a vengeful secret have come haunting.
Forced to flee all she has ever known, Rune soon learns of a legacy she is bound to--one that is drenched in fear--a birthright that stretches beyond the grave to the trees where Rune is no longer safe.
Jennifer Murgia has been writing since she was nine years old. After receiving recognition for her poetry, she went on to use her talents to bring characters to life in fiction novels that are authentic, intriguing, and personal. She currently resides in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.
The much anticipated sequel to the Revised Life of Ellie Sweet by Stephanie Morrill released this week from Playlist Fiction.
FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A FREE COPY OF THE LATEST PLAYLIST FICTION TITLE LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW
“I’m carving out my own place in the world, and I get to choose what it looks like and who I’ll bring with me.” Ellie Sweet
The only problem is, in the Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet, Ellie is trying to decipher what her place in the world truly entails, while untangling her mixed up emotions of which relationships in her life are worth fighting for.
Sounds like all of us in a way, doesn’t it? In this sequel to The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet, Ellie finds being a published teen author isn’t all glamour. In fact there’s a lot of stress and backstabbing. Ellie is also still torn between the gorgeous Southern charmer playboy, Palmer, and the dark, handsome, intriguing, guy with a past, Chase. As Ellie decodes her heart, she discovers the path and the person she should choose to be isn’t necessarily good or bad, but what and who is best for her. Morrill identifies with the life of a teenager so well, the reader imagines Morrill herself, is a teen writer taking English class at the local high school. The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet is a spot on story of how we all have insecurities and how answers aren’t always black and white. Readers of Meg Cabot and Sarah Dessen will devour this contemporary tale. Ellie is so genuinely well intentioned yet humanly flawed, I would love to hang out with her or have her as a critique partner. And, I’d definitely want to borrow one of her t-shirts.
The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet picks up right where the prequel left off. For once, Ellie Sweet has it all together. Her hair now curls instead of fuzzes, she’s tamed the former bad-boy, Chase Cervantes (she has, right?), and her debut novel will hit shelves in less than a year. Even her ex-friends are leaving her alone. Well, except for Palmer Davis, but it can’t be helped that he works at her grandmother’s nursing home.
Life should feel perfect. And yet, it’s not that easy. Ellie’s editor loves her, but the rest of the publishing biz? Not so much. And they’re not shy about sharing their distrust over Ellie’s unlikely debut.
Ellie has always been able to escape reality in the pages of her novel, but with the stress of major edits and rocky relationships, her words dry up. In fiction, everything always comes together, but in real life, it seems to Ellie that hard work isn’t always enough, the people you love can’t always be trusted…and the dream-come-true of publishing her book could be the biggest mistake she’s made yet.
Stephanie Morrill lives in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. Her only talents are reading, writing, and drinking coffee, so career options were somewhat limited. Fortunately she discovered a passion for young adult novels and has been writing them ever since.
Stephanie is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series, The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet, and the award-winning Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft into a Published Book. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers on her blog,www.GoTeenWriters.com. You can also find her online at www.StephanieMorrill.com
Don't forget to leave a comment below for a chance to win an e-copy of The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet. One winner will be chosen randomly from all comments submitted by Friday, November 15.
Today I'm talking with Laura Anderson Kurk. If you know me, then you probably know by now, she and I are kindred writing spirits. Although she lives in Texas, and I live in Ohio, there are times when I grab my phone and start dialing before I've even thought about it, because I NEED to talk to her. And almost daily there are instances, when my fingers fly across my keyboard consulting, celebrating and commiserating with her over "writing stuff". Tomorrow she releases Perfect Glass, the sequel to her novel, Glass Girl. You will fall in love with it! Today we discuss how Perfect Glass came to be, so tomorrow you'll be ready to dive into a book that will absolutely absorb you.
You write Perfect Glass from two point of views, Henry and Meg. Was this difficult?
When I first wrote Perfect Glass, the entire story was from Henry's POV. I loved it. My agent and editor didn't. They felt the book would be enjoyed by more readers if I added Meg's voice. That's why you'll find the switching narration. And now that the book is done, I see how much stronger it is to have both points of view. Both stories show the development in Meg and Henry and allow readers to see Meg through Henry's eyes and to see Henry through Meg's eyes. Getting to write Henry's words as he describes Meg's beauty and how much he loves her, was my favorite part of writing this book.
Readers wonder if writing from multiple POVs is difficult. The difficulty (as you know) is in making sure you're staying true to each character's voice and tone. Readers are sensitive to the pitch of a narrator's voice and if they sense something off-key, it pulls them out of the story. Making sure I had the voices just right was the trickiest aspect of writing this book.
How did you stay in character?
I wrote Henry's entire story first and lived in his head for a few months. Then when I had it perfect, I wrote Meg's entire story. That way, I didn't have to force myself in and out of character. I think that would've made me crazy. Once I had both stories the way I wanted them, I joined them. Chapter by chapter, I wrote in connecting elements that made the two stories interlocking. The common ground came in the fact that both Meg and Henry are learning what it means to love people who are considered unlovable. They're both learning to put away selfishness and grow up. They're both struggling with ego, but learn a lot about themselves. The novel's epigraph is an old quote (paraphrased) "calamity is the perfect glass in which we can truly see and know ourselves." The calamity Henry and Meg each face becomes the mirror that lets them finally see themselves clearly.
Was one of their voices easier for you to write?
Believe it or not, I'm more comfortable writing Henry. I have a theory about this . . . I think it's because there's more of me in Meg and I've never been great at understanding the nuances of my own personality. Meg -- holy cow. She's just complicated and because she's a lot like me, it was hard for me to see her objectively. That dilemma actually lends a lot of truth to Meg's character, though, so I think she comes off as honest and raw and real. As an observer, I've known so many guys who are like Henry. I've studied them. I know their mannerisms and speech patterns. I know how their brains work and what affects them. So I was able to construct Henry with a really objective eye.
Meg and Henry are dealing with a long distance relationship. While Henry is out of town, a new student, Quinn (who is clearly interested in Meg) arrives. If you were Meg, which boy would you choose and why?
Oh, there's no question my heart would remain with Henry. But...can I be real? I have a weakness for boys who understand literature and poetry and songwriting. Boys who get Whitman and can talk to me about the Harlem Renaissance in easy conversation. In the same way, Quinn is definitely interesting to Meg. He reminds her of the urban, sophisticated kind of guys she knew in Pittsburgh. And he reminds her more importantly, of the brother she lost. She wants Quinn in her life, but she knows Henry is her future. Henry opened a new world up for Meg, and she's head over heels in love with him.
Most high school stories would be incomplete without the school dance, including yours. There is so much hype surrounding homecoming, prom, etc. Do you have a distinct high school dance memory?
Oh my lands. Yes, I do. Dare I dredge it up and share it with your readers? What to do...what to do...
I was a late bloomer. A wallflower. Not noticed by guys. Ever. But for some reason, my junior year, the best looking but most dangerous boy in my class took an interest in me. He would laugh now hearing how I describe him. He was tall, blonde, cocky, and WILD. At least that's my memory. He made me so nervous. I was timid, rail thin, and naive. You know, the girl who'd never been kissed.
He asked me to prom and I almost didn't say yes because I thought I'd die of nerves. My best friend talked me into saying yes. I was nervous the whole night and, when he drove me home, I was so afraid he'd try to kiss me goodnight that I almost threw up in his car. In fact, I had dry heaves sitting in his passenger seat. Loud, dry heaves that went on and on. Is there anyway to recover from that? Nope. You gotta live with that nightmare the rest of your life. No sanctuary from a dry heaving past.
What's your dream prom dress?
I'm not a follower of fashion, to be honest. I like when I see girls who dare to look different because it seems like, these days, every girl is trying to look like the same person. When I see a girl brave enough to look a little indie or alternative, I silently cheer for them in my head. (not out loud because indie types do NOT want to be noticed in that way.) My favorite formal dresses are always very vintage. I dress Meg and her friend, Abby, in vintage dresses for Winter Dance. I just think it's important to look like a class act, because you'll stand out in the sea of too tight, too short, too low cut dresses. And take care that you don't look like you're headed to a pageant, either, with the overdone makeup and stiff hair. Imagine how that looks from a guy's perspective. I think guys probably prefer soft makeup and natural, soft hair. Anything more and you just look plastic.
If I were seventeen and shopping for prom, I'd be looking for a dress like this.
I love the relationship Meg has with a painter in this story. I understand your mom is a painter. How much of her did you pour into this book?
My mom does paint and she's really good, but it's a hobby for her. So some of Jo Russell's thoughts and attitudes came from my mom, but the deepest and greatest parts of Jo Russell came from one of my best friends--Mara Schasteen. The book is dedicated to Mara. Our lives intersected in Texas when we were young moms together. I can't begin to tell you how indelible an impression Mara made on my heart and soul. We survived a lot of things together, but more than that, we met each other in a place where we were starved for beauty and art and kindness. We were able to enrich each other in a lot of ways.
Mara is a brilliant painter. I want people to see the world through her eyes. It's a beautiful, wondrous, God-filled place. I describe one of Mara's paintings in Perfect Glass. Henry dreams that Meg has painted it.
Much of the artistic words and phrases and technical aspects of painting that you find in Perfect Glass came from Mara. She's the one who described the wet dog smell of a studio full of primed linen canvas. She's the one who once pointed out that everything in the world has just a touch of ultramarine violet in it. It's not that I interviewed her. These are things that came to me from having a relationship with her and knowing her heart and her art. Jo Russell, the artist in Perfect Glass, is seriously one of my all-time favorite characters I've created. I could live in her world for a long while and never get bored.
What have you learned about the art of writing from Mara's and your mom's art?
I've learned all art is the impulse to create. That's an impulse given to all humans by the original Creator. Even Eminem was given the impulse to create by God. He may not realize it or acknowledge it, but that's where he got that desire.
From fine artists, I've learned that beauty is there for the taking and it's everywhere -- even in the things that look ugly at first glance. I've learned inspiration comes in the act of creating.
I've learned writers build stories in exactly the same way fine artists build a painting. If you watch an artist, you think they're crazy when they first start working on a canvas. They're staring at a waterfall and painting random crooked lines. But if you watch a while, it clicks. And you finally see what they've seen in their heads the whole time. Then it builds and builds. Mara says her favorite part of a painting is when she's almost done and she's adding the magic. Suddenly things move and shine and shimmer. Suddenly eyes look alive and faces look warm. Suddenly nature looks energetic like you could walk right into her trees. All this happens with calculated brush strokes.
It's the same with writing. I start with the bones, spare and barely there. Then I build the muscle and fat and skin. Then I add the curves and the meeting places, where parts of story meet like parts of a body meet. And finally I add the magic - the precise rhythm and heart of the story. The singular words that make a reader stop breathing for a second so she can hear me. That connection right there, between me and a reader, is beautiful and tender. It's a shared experience. Readers don't often realize that they're giving me as much as I'm giving them. Just imagining their thoughts as they read my thoughts blows my mind.
To experience Laura Anderson Kurk's magic first hand, download Perfect Glass by clicking on it's title or cover.
Tingling all over with the announcement of the second book in my Status Updates series, It's Over, releasing April 19!
HOW CAN YOU MOVE ON WHEN IT'S OVER?
When four college roommates lose pieces of their lives, the pain isolates and the tension rises. Emotions are hard to hide and even harder to tackle. How can the girls move forward, when there is so much pain in letting go? Together, Claire, Kat, Palmer and Hannah learn to lean on God and each other, and through it all they learn loss is a part of life.
"In It's Over, Laura L. Smith confirms the truth we've been told that we are never alone in the midst of heartache and struggle. In fact, she takes us to a place where we not only get to see, but feel deeply the truth of the fact that every single one of us has a story. Every single one of has experienced pain. But more importantly, that every single one of us has great hope. Laura L. Smith's writing strikes a deep chord in my heart. It makes sense. It's real--and in my opinion, that transparency makes all the difference." ~Holly Starr, Christian recording artist
"Laura Smith speaks for the broken. With a voice that’s warm and true, Laura gives words to those rendered speechless by issues that high school and college girls should never have to deal with—but so many of them do. In writing that’s raw, relevant, and real, Smith goes where few authors dare to go: straight into the heart of today’s young woman."
~Amy Parker, bestselling author of Courageous Teens
"YA author, Laura L. Smith crafts another story that will appeal to all girls, because no one is untouched by heartache in all its forms. The grace Smith extends the four girls in It's Over will touch readers in deep ways, as they follow these characters through some of the worst parts of life. Best of all, they'll cheer when the girls lean on one another and find ways to be thankful in everything. This is a fantastic read, one that will resonate with teens, college girls and their mothers."
~Laura Kurk, author of Glass Girl
Street team: a modern version of a credible "cool" field marketer with the ability to create hype for your artist (brand/song/book) through credible peer-to-peer interactions and viral word-of-mouth influence marketing (Wikipedia)
Sound like you? Are you modern? Cool? Do you like books?
SORRY, STREET TEAM APPLICATIONS ARE CLOSED AT THIS TIME. THANK YOU EVERYONE WHO APPLIED.
Then, we (myself and four other rockin Young Adult fiction authors: Laura Anderson Kurk, Jennifer Murgia, Stephanie Morrill and Rajdeep Paulus) want you. We are launching a new line of edgy, emotional young adult reads throughout 2013, and we’re searching for readers, like you, to be our street team.
I was blessed to be on Mary De Muth’s launch team for her recent book release, Everything. I expected to and loved reading her inspiring book for free before the rest of the world, but the impact the communication with Mary and the community of readers had on me blew me away.
HERE'S HOW IT WORKS
1. You get free books. I repeat you get free books. Authors will send you the PDF’s of their latest young adult novels prior to their release.
2. You’ll be admitted into our secret society, learn our secret handshake, etc. Okay it’s really a Facebook group, but there you’ll have real access to the authors and find a community of readers like yourselves.
3. In exchange for the free books, let people know about them, loudly and clearly. Tell your friends, Pin the covers on your Pinterest boards or post them on Instagram, tweet, FB post, do whatever you do when you’re excited or intrigued by something to let your peeps know what you’re up to.
If so, go to the CONTACT LAURA tab at the top of my site and give me your:
· Favorite book
· Favorite author
· Number of Facebook friends
· Number of Twitter followers
· Number of Instagram followers
· Number of people following your Pinterest boards
Our group of authors will select the final street team. You'll be contacted individually, and the fun begins.
This is your chance to be part of something bigger, and did I mention the free books?
I heard author, Bill Myers, speak at a Christian writer's conference in California. His voice mesmerized me. His message captivated me. At the end of the conference I purchased his book, Eli, for my husband and had Bill sign it for him, secretly knowing I would also benefit from this "gift". I let it sit on my hubby's shelf with his other "to be read" books. I plowed through my pile of "to be read" books, until December, a month off book club, fewer school days, fewer activities, more nights by the fire.
I pulled Eli off my husband's shelf and dove in.
Eli is the retelling of the gospel (in novel form), like you've never heard it before. It's twisted out of its familiar settings and verses into today's terms. I take such comfort in my tried and true Bible, but I must admit, I sometimes take for granted or skim over the deep lying messages within. What if Christ had been born in Santa Monica in the early 70's and a bunch of hippies were told by some glowing dudes they would find a new king, someone to change the world, in the laundry room of a motel, wrapped in motel towels? Bill Myers describes down to the beads and scent of smoke what it would be like. If I were in that motel, would I believe?
The nativity presented in this manner drew me in as I gazed at the stockings hanging by our fireplace. As I read on, Eli helped me reposition front and center in my mind what Christmas is all about.
Follow Eli Shepherd as he heals the lame, feeds the hungry, gives sight to the blind and raises the dead - all with twentieth century paparazzi, politics and media.
Read this book.
Hear his message of love.
Ponder if you would follow him.
The beautiful Bethany Jett, author of the soon to be released The Cinderella Rule, invited me to join her and other authors as we share what we're writing, and why you'll want to read it.
Bethany and I share loves of writing, fashion, Christ, chocolate, kissing and the shoes on the cover of her new book. Check them out, you’ll see why.
What am I writing? I’m working on a new series revolving around four women rooming together at a fictitious college. Clearly the story lines for a series are endless with the ups and downs, trials and triumphs of living away from home for the first time and navigating around the college scene. But that’s all I can tell you for now. I’ll let your imaginations run wild and share with you soon more information on titles, characters, plots and release dates.
Why am I writing this series? First, I live in a college town, Oxford, Ohio, home of Miami University. College girls surround me. I’m friends with many of them. I hear their stories, their dilemmas, their fears and their hopes. I wanted to capture this time of life full of uncertainty and potential for them and other girls like them. Second, my college years were a critical time of my life. I fell from my faith. I made mistakes, some big and some small. I had a blast in college, made amazing, lasting friendships and met the love of my life, my hubby, in spite of myself. You see, I also doubted myself. I tried too hard to be accepted. I did many things I regret. I lost the essence of who God created me to be during those years. I long to share what I’ve learned about loving myself more and worrying about what others think less with the college girls of today and tomorrow. I want to share with them how beautifully and wonderfully they were created and urge them to not pay attention to what everyone else is trying to achieve, but instead strive to be the best versions of themselves.
What actors would I have play my characters? Well, there are four girls and without revealing too much about their personalities I think Dakota Fanning, Vanessa Hudgens, Anna Popplewell and Ellen Page would make the perfect representations of the room mates.
Who represents me? Amanda Luedeke of MacGregor Literary. She is brilliant and sharp and pushes me to write better and explore new options.
What other books in this genre compare? Girls in Pants by Ann Brashares, Forever in Blue by Ann Brashares, Bloomberg Place Series by Melody Carlson, Mixed Bags by Melody Carlson
Some amazing authors you should check out, if you haven’t already:
Laura Kurk Anderson – YA fiction – Glass Girl
Stephanie Morrill – YA fiction – The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt Series
Jennifer Murgia – YA Fiction – Angel Star, Lemniscate
So, how about you? What are you reading this month? What projects are you working on? I’d love to hear. Leave a comment below.
Melissa Rollins is juggling all the balls in the air; dance team, freshman year of high school, new girl friends, a new boyfriend, grades. And it's all going quite well, it always has, until there are too many balls in the air to juggle anymore. She feels like her life is spinning out of control. How can Melissa be accepted and appreciated when there are so many pressures to be perfect? How can she gain back a little bit of that control?
Download your FREE copy this week only on Kindle:
Laura L. Smith