Category Archives: Support

The Friday Five – August 19th


Welcome to the first ever Friday Five post!

To give credit where credit is 100% due, I have stolen this idea (with permission) from the lovely Katie Cotugno’s Five Good Things posts. The world can be a crazy place, so I think it’s excellent to recognize and publicly acknowledge the good things in it when we can. I am going to try to make these posts every week (I set an alert on my phone and everything), and this is the first one. Here are five things I enjoyed or am grateful for about this week:

  1. I don’t know how I’ve gotten so lucky with editors so far in my career, but I am so super grateful for my Entangled editor Kate Brauning who has been uber patient and supportive, helping me contain and shape my current projects and encouraging my new ones. She has continuously not keelhauled me for being overdue on this draft. I gotta say that I greatly appreciate that in an editor.
  2. Cait Greer has been especially fantastic this week, listening to me flail and whine about book problems only I can actually solve. A+ awesome friendship. Plus, we’re counting down the days until I fly to Salt Lake City, help Cait load up a trailer, and then road trip with her back to South Florida! I am very excited about that trip. There will be a LOT of pictures.
  3. It’s wonderful to me every time I see my Don’t Erase the Aces essay shared anywhere. The response to this post makes it more than worth the anxiety of writing it. Thank you to anyone who has promoted it, and even more thanks to the people who have told me how much the story resonated with them.
  4. I am closing in on 100k in my current project. The end is kind of in sight? If I grab a old-school seafarers telescope? And look in exactly the right direction? And good things are happening in the background on book one in this trilogy! I am trying to use that to spur me into finishing book two…
  5. Tomorrow (later today?) I am continuing my efforts to be social periodically and am meeting up with several local SCBWI friends for lunch and a workshop session! My regional chapter is fantastic, and I adore all of my local people, so I’m really happy I get to see them.

We all need to stand behind Orlando

What happened last night in Orlando is horrific and so saddening. I want to curl up in a ball in my house and never leave, but that’s not possible. I have commitments and responsibilities for my job that are taking me out into the world. When I go, though, I’ll be wearing my support with pride.

If it’s safe for you to do so, please SHOW your support today. Let’s cover the country with rainbows to remind those who need it that there’s still color in the world, and reminding those who hurt us that we are NOT GOING AWAY.

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Solo, but never alone

Times like #RT16 are a perfect reminder that even though writing can be a very solitary activity, we’re never actually alone. I am so grateful for every one of these ladies! ?

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A Reviewer Appreciation Giveaway!

Have you posted a review of one of my books online anywhere? If so, I want to say thank you! Until 5.31.16, I’m hosting a reviewer appreciation giveaway! It’s open internationally and all you have to do to enter is submit links to your reviews. The grand prize is everything pictured here! So go enter! Http://

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Today I have a Starbucks writing date with @marnibates!…

Today I have a Starbucks writing date with @marnibates! ?

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My uber busy release weekend!

Even though it’s kind of expected, I didn’t do an official launch party for the release of my debut novel Sing Sweet Nightingale. Instead, I had a whole release weekend of events! It was busy and crazy and so many levels of amazing I don’t even know how to describe it.

Plans for this weekend o’ awesome began last year when my editress Danielle Ellison warned me to block out the weekend of March 8th. “You’re going to be in Virginia,” she said. Since I had no reason to protest, I didn’t! I started making plans to join my editress, her bookstore One More Page, and the Arlington Central Library at Washington Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia for the inaugural NoVaTEEN Book Festival.

Turns out that it was going to be more than just the festival! On Friday, I joined Diana Peterfreund at Yorktown High School in Arlington, Virgina to talk to two different groups. Since this was my first ever school visit, I was really nervous, but it went so well! The kids were respectful and interested and they asked good questions. Lelia from One More Page Bookstore in Arlington coordinated the event for us and she was so sweet! All in all, it was a great morning.

Saturday was the main event, NoVaTEEN Book Festival at Washington Lee High School! It started with a keynote speech by the incredible Phyllis Reynolds Naylor at 10 and ended with a group signing at 4. In between were larger panels in the school’s auditorium and smaller sessions in several of the nearby classrooms. I joined Jon Skovron and Lea Nolan for a “breakout session” at 11 where we spent a lot of time discussing the different constructs of hell and then I got to sit back and listen to other people talk for a couple of hours before my own main-stage panel! At 3, I joined fellow debut author Elle Cosimano and veteran Victoria Schwab along with moderators Elisa Nader and Aimee Agresti for a discussion on Bad Boys and why they’re so amazingly attractive. I got to talk about my early love for the rogue George Cooper from Tamora Pierce’s Alanna series and what makes the difference between a bad boy and a villain. Somehow, I didn’t make a fool of myself, so I call the whole day a win!

Sunday, I headed to Alexandria, Virginia for a solo signing and talk at the cutest bookstore: Hooray for Books! During the event, we revealed the title for The Dream War Saga, book 2: Deadly Sweet Lies. The staff was fantastic and I hope I get to go back there soon!

And then, Monday, my mom, my uncle, and I spent the afternoon at the International Spy Museum while I played #iSpy with Marni Bates on Twitter. It was a blast!

So now, pictorial proof:

But that’s not all!

I flew home Tuesday morning, grabbed lunch, rushed to work, made my students write essays because I didn’t have anything else prepared for them, rushed home, jumped online, and did an hour-long live chat with the girls from Reading With Me! We gave away prizes and I answered a lot of questions. But don’t worry! Even if you missed the live event, you can still watch the whole video on YouTube! Or by clicking play on the video below:

Phew! Now I’m home and a little sad because all of those awesome things are over! But now I get to start working on my thriller work in progress again and then jump into edits on DEADLY, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to keep busy! 😉

I just want to say one last thank you to everyone who made this weekend so special. There’s far too many people to list individually, so just know that if I saw or spoke to you this weekend, you’re part of the list. Thank you so much! <3

A heartfelt thank you to everyone.

When I woke up this morning, my phone was already desperately blinking at me, filled with messages and alerts from Twitter and Facebook. Friends and family and colleagues had started early in the morning spreading the word about my debut novel’s birthday. It was an amazing feeling and as the morning wore on, the posts kept coming, poring in so quickly it was (and still is) impossible to keep up!

There are so many people who deserve thanks for their part in this process, but there are several that I feel the need to call out here.

My sister Haley has always been my first and biggest fan. She’s the kind of fan who remembers my books better than I do and brings me presents because they remind her of an old story that, at this point, will NEVER see the light of day. She’s already read Sing Sweet Nightingale more times than anyone but me and my wonderful editors and even sat with me in my bedroom one weekend while I read the entire 105,000 word book to her. Her enthusiasm for what happens next in my stories is one of the things that keeps me writing quickly, wanting to get her the next chapter as soon as I can.

Although Haley may be the first true fan of my writing, my mom, Corey, was always the first real fan of me. No matter what I thought I wanted to do, she was there supporting me in it. Driving me to dance classes and dress rehearsals and competitions when I was little, helping me with homework, encouraging my hobbies–she did it all. Most importantly, though, my mom believed wholeheartedly that I was exactly the person I should be, no matter how weird that person was. I couldn’t have asked for a kinder, smarter, more supportive mom and a lot of how Dana Teagan relates to Mariella in Sing Sweet Nightingale comes from how amazing I know my own mother would be in that situation.

All of my friends have been fascinated by and supportive of my writing aspirations, but Lani Woodland has literally been there since the beginning. Like Haley, Lani has read almost everything I’ve ever written and been one of the first people I call when I get stuck or things go wrong. Or when things go right! Without Lani, Sing Sweet Nightingale would not have been born. It also wouldn’t have found such a loving home with Danielle Ellison and Patricia Riley at Spencer Hill. Thank you for everything, bestie!

And then there’s Spencer Hill. Danielle and Patricia jumped in to my corner from day one. They took my vision for The Dream War Saga, pulled out the bits that I didn’t know wouldn’t work, and helped me put the whole thing back together into a shape that was even better than what I’d started with. My wonderful editresses have been crazy perfectionists who demanded more than I thought I was capable of. They have been cheerleaders, publicists, and, best of all, friends. I cannot imagine this series in any other hands and I am so thankful that Lani introduced me to Danielle and the rest of my Spencer Hill family. They have put SO MUCH WORK into this series already and we’re only now publishing the first book. What I’ve learned over the past eighteen months or so, though, is that they’re brilliant and, most importantly, they’re almost always right. I adore my editresses and I honestly do not know how to thank them enough for everything they’ve done and everything we have yet to accomplish together. <3

My agent, Danielle Chiotti, has been invaluable for the past year. Helping me keep my head when edits overwhelmed me, guiding me through revisions, teaching me all the things I didn’t know, and generally going WAY beyond what is technically required of a literary agent. She’s proven herself ten times over and I am so lucky that she chose to take me on. Even more so, I’m SO looking forward to working with her over the coming years!

There are so many other people who have played small but extremely significant parts in my life over the past few years. The team at Spencer Hill who have been working behind the scenes for eighteen months to make sure this book was perfect–Kate Kaynak, Cindy Thomas, Britta Gigliotti, Rich Storrs, and so many others! My fellow SHP/SHC authors–A.R. Kahler, Sarah Guillory, Dahlia Adler, the Rock sisters Joanne and Karen, Megan Whitmer, Mary Gray, Rachel Harris, and Kelsey Macke–have been nothing but supportive and generally wonderful! And then there have been friends like Asja Parrish and Taylor Thompson who willingly gave up their free time to read a new draft of my book or bloggers like my fabulous Dream Team and everyone who volunteered their time for the blog tour hosted by Jamie and Rachel at Rockstar. It’s amazing how many people have already been a part of Sing Sweet Nightingale‘s life and it’s completely mind boggling how many more people are about to join the party now that the book has been released in to the wild.

Thank you to absolutely everyone! This day has been wonderful and all of you have played a part in that.


Not letting the stress get to you.

Don’t stress is simple, good advice. It’s also really hard to follow.

Frustrated (c) Charlie Balch

Letting things roll off my back is something I learned to do the hard way. I used to stress about everything until I reached the point where I just couldn’t handle that anymore. Looking back from that moment, I finally saw that none of those little things I’d worried myself to death over really mattered. I’d freaked myself out over nothing. A lot.

What I learned to do is pick a handful of things that are important–really, actually important. Everything else can come or go as it pleases.

Except, sometimes, it doesn’t work like that.

Sometimes, if enough little stuff clogs up your life at once you can start to freak out because all you can see if e never-ending line of things you have to do or things about to go wrong.

I had one of those moments yesterday. It wasn’t a ton of fun–I definitely could have done without it–but with a night of sleep I’m a little calmer today. But still, knowing I need to just let things unfold and actually doing it is… hard. The next few months are so jam-packed it seems like the only way to make everything work out the way I want it to is to give up sleep completely. And since that’s not happening (I am an awful person when running on too little sleep), I have to decide whether or not I can live with letting my work in certain areas slide.

Whatever happens, it’ll definitely be an interesting couple of months. Let’s hope I make it to May with sanity intact!

The road to discovery.

Make it Bigger 2 (c) Joana Croft

Earlier this week I talked about my state of overwhelm. Yeah. It’s still there. However, I have made a lot of progress toward the other side of the tunnel by coming up with a plot for book 2 that meets the approval of my editresses! And I’m excited. Not only do I get to play with some awesomely interesting new characters, the story itself should be a treat to write! All sorts of twisted and compelling.

The biggest lesson I’m taking away from the last few days is trust those you trust. That sounds weird to say, but let me explain.

After I wrote Sing, Sweet Nightingale, I had a vision in my head of where the story went from there. I knew more or less which characters had a part to play and how what happened in SSN changed those people and the world around them. I presented this whole idea to my editors and they came back with questions that made me go back and really take stock of the world. Now I’m still telling the same story–mostly–but the impact will be completely different. And better, I think. If almost anyone else had come to me with the same questions, I probably would have defended and talked them down until they went away and left me alone with my outlines. But I’ve already seen that Patricia and Danielle’s ideas–even when at first I don’t see where they’re coming from–are usually right. They’ve earned my trust, so when they wanted me to reexamine my story, I listened. And I’m really glad I did.

I still don’t know exactly how I’m going to pull everything off or where exactly I’ll end up if I do, but I’m thrilled to be on the journey, to discover new things about this world I’ve created. And, really, isn’t that the important part anyway?

At this time last year I was…

Agenda 3 (c) Dragan Rusov

For some reason it hit me yesterday that a year has passed.

“Well, of course it has,” you say. “Technically a year has passed every single day.”

True, but it’s more significant this month, at least to me. This is National Novel Writing Month and this is the month where everything started changing for the better very quickly in my life.

Quickly is a relative word, especially when we’re talking about writing and the publication process, but looking back I have to admit that everything did happen very fast. “How so?” you ask. To illustrate, here’s a recap of my year from November 2011 to November 2012:

November 2011: Begin writing novel version of Sing, Sweet Nightingale for NaNoWriMo
December 2011: Go back through SSN and make significant changes because, you know, first drafts and all.
January 2012: Frantically try to polish first 30 pages to submit to writing contests; squeeze in under the deadline of said contests and then try to forget I entered them
February 2012: Begin planning trip to BEA in NYC
March 2012: Find out SSN is a finalist in one of the previously mentioned contests
April 2012: Finalize plans for BEA 2012
May 2012: My birthday! Also, I find out SSN won the Marlene Award!
June 2012: Attend BEA. Crash a party at Lani Woodland’s insistence. Meet Danielle and Patricia. Send Danielle and Patricia my book. Have first Skype call with Danielle and Patricia about possible revisions.
July 2012: SSN officially becomes a future publication from Spencer Hill Press!
August 2012: Get so-called preliminary edit instructions that somehow turn into a rewrite project. Spend month stressing.
September 2012: See August
October 2012: Send SSN revision off to betas and CPs. Breathe sigh of relief. Later this month, spend ten hours in one week on Skype with Lani plotting books 2 and 3. Even later this month, do more tweaks on SSN and send book plus new outlines plus notes plus other random goodies to Danielle and Patricia
November 2012: Send EVEN MORE goodies to Danielle and Patricia. Wait with barely concealed anticipation/eagerness/terror/etc. for scheduled editorial Skype chat. Also, begin NaNo, this time working on three projects at once including the as yet untitled Dream War Saga Book 2.

That has been my writing-related year. I did other things too–finish first drafts of two different contemporary YA projects I really love, write a short story in TDWS universe, connect with the amazing Twitterverse of writerly people, and other things I can’t even think of right now–but the timeline above are my big moments and why realizing a year has passed since last November is a nostalgic moment for me. November is also the home of Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday!), so I wanted to take this time to have a gratefulness moment. Sometimes it may feel like the ultimate goal (holding a physical copy of my book) is so far away, but at least the end is finally in sight. I’m working with editors I adore and I have a support network who is amazing. All-in-all, this past year has been very good for me. I’m even on track to knock out most of my New Years Resolutions! 2012 was great, 2013 will be even better, and I have high hopes that 2014 will be a banner year!

Don’t forget to enjoy the moment you’re in. You never know when you’ll suddenly be standing a year in the future going, “Wow. Remember when…?”