Event Recap: Ontario Teen Book Fest 2015!

Whew! This girl is exhausted! I have a slight headache and I’m ready to sit in bed all day and watch the Disney movie marathon on ABC Family and talk all about the super fantastic amazing day I had once again at the Ontario Teen Book Fest.

19 authors, abortion both guests and moderators, cost came together to celebrate the love of books and writing.

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I was so very very very excited about this event. I spend pretty much all year waiting for it to happen. As the official blogger, see I get excited waiting for the author list and all of that, and I work really hard on promoting the heck out of this thing and making sure the blog tour runs as smoothly as possible.

I arrived early in the morning, ready to start my day, an absolutely necessary coffee in hand. I immediately ran into Courtney, who runs the fest as her literal third child. She said she had something for me, for all the hard work that I do for the fest. She let me into the author “backstage area”. I noticed there was a spot for each author, and each author had their own name bag and their own bag with their book splashed on the side. She walked me to a table…and I was gifted with my own name badge and a bag with my logo on the side!

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I’m not going to lie…I nearly cried. It was just such a small gesture but it was awesome. I seriously want everything with my logo on it haha, I want a travel mug, and a phone case and everything and having this bag is SO SO super cool.

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All the authors sat down for breakfast and I intermingled, talking and making sure the giveaway posters got signed (which they did, congrats to Kerry and Amy!) It was super great seeing all the familiar faces like Jessica Brody and Catherine Linka and Lauren Miller and all of those guys and it was even more awesome to make new friends in Melissa Landers and Mary Elizabeth Summer and more.

I really SUPER loved talking to Jessica Brody about the ending to her trilogy. I haven’t talked to anyone who has read it yet and I’m just bursting to talk about it because it was so so good and it was nice to hear that she really loved my review of it. I also nearly started crying again (I swear, I’m not THAT emotional) when both Catherine and Lauren asked about my books. Lauren even told me to keep going, that it’ll happen because she likes my little snippets and that they’re written well. I fangirled only slightly.

First off were the keynote speeches, which were done by Claudia Gray, Aaron Hartzler and Shannon Messenger.

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Claudia Gray did a speech on How NOT to Become a Writer which was super fun, fresh, hilarious and actually really helpful. She told in order to not become a writer, you don’t read, you don’t write, you don’t try. I think my favorite part was her saying that writer’s block is not a thing (because that’s what I believe). She paraphrased Dan Wells, and I’m paraphrasing her right now, saying writing is the only job where people stop and say, “nope, I just can’t do my job today.” Which made me laugh a lot. 

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Next was Aaron Hartzler, talking about growing up in a conservative Christian household as a closet gay boy and having a hard time figuring out who he was. It was incredible and very moving. Suddenly I wasn’t the only one crying that day. He said a particular line that I tweeted out and I kind of want to make my motto on this blog now: “Be the weird you want to see in the world.”

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Then was Shannon Messenger. She was SO sweet and funny. She talked about she sort of accidentally fell into writing YA, since she wrote Let the Sky Fall as a way to distract her from the ups and downs of publishing her first novel (which is her middle grade series). She also talked about her film making at USC and I’m just saying, I can’t be the only one that wants to watch Tumble of Love.

Then it was time for the first panel. I went to the Promise Not to Tell: Secret Lies panel where the lovely Gretchen McNeil was moderating with Jessica Brody, Jessica Khoury, Anna Carey, Kasie West and Katie Finn.

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The one thing I really loved about this panel was the time they took to talk about writing! They talked about their methods, how they outline or don’t outline or do both (Katie is my girl!) and the kind of research they do and all of that. I didn’t know that Jessica Khoury had actually gone to the Kalahari in order to do some research for Kalahari but that’s super cool. I’m really jealous!

Then we all had lunch, courtesy of one of the sponsors, Panera Bread, and then continued to the Author Speed Dating. I think this is the BEST part of the event. There are tables set up and the authors move from table to table, for a period of five minutes, and talk about…well, whatever, they want. I got to talk to a bunch of great authors, and I’m glad I was able to talk to ones I’m not hugely familiar with like Sherri Smith and Brad Gottfred, both who were fabulous. I loved talking about periods and characters getting their periods in books with Sherri Smith. It was actually a really great conversation haha.

After the speed dating were the second panels. I knew I HAD to go see the Girls Gone Sci-Fi panel with Gretchen McNeil as a moderator to Jessica Brody, Jessica Khoury, Melissa Landers, Lauren Miller and Claudia Gray. I knew some hilarity would ensue and I was DEFINITELY right. All such fabulous ladies and all of them inspirational in my own journey as a YA sci-fi writer. I’m sad because I got hit with a TERRIBLE coughing fit during the panel and had to leave, but I could hear laughter so I’m sure it continued to be super fun and awesome.

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Then it was time for the book signing! I don’t have a lot of money right now so I only got a few books that I already owned signed. But I talked to all the authors and took pictures and got them to sign my writing advice poster #2. They all were absolutely fabulous.

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I love how personalized this is :) Most of my books from Morgan (Katie) say its great seeing me. I’m also stoked because this is an ARC with the original cover, but when the book actually releases, it’ll be a totally different cover, so that’s kind of cool!

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Now my collection is complete! And again with the awesome personalization. You’re extraordinary too Jess! And she signed a super cool poster with the Unremembered trilogy on one side and a map of the Diotech compound on the other.

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Aw thanks Melissa :) It was fabulous to see you too! I fangirled only *slightly* at meeting her. I absolutely LOVE this series and I can’t wait for her next one!

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Finally! I only owned an e-copy so I’m stoked to have this finally!

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Michelle Levy is a debut author whose debut novel will be releasing THIS August and I’m so INCREDIBLY excited for it, and I’m so happy for her as well. I was super surprised when she gave me an ARC, and I can’t wait to dive in!

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All of the authors! There’s a picture with me somewhere and I hope I will find it eventually. All such awesome, great authors.

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Me and Elizabeth Ross

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Me and my new bestie (I don’t think she knows it yet) Mary Elizabeth Summer. Read her book Trust Me, I’m Lying. Seriously. Do it.

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Me and Michelle Levy and her beautiful ARC for her debut book. I can’t wait til August and I’m so excited to read it!

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Me and Kasie West :) I was relieved to meet another author that is a pantser and not a plotter. I’m kind of a plotter. Kind of. But mostly a pantser.

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Me and Anna Carey. I seriously adore her and want to be like her because any author that can write not one, but TWO books, in second person is seriously amazing.

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One of my favorite authors of all time. I absolutely adore her. She writes amazing books as both Morgan Matson and Katie Finn.

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Me and Shannon Messenger. She is absolutely adorable. I really enjoyed her keynote and I’m really hoping that I can read her middle grade series soon!

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Me and Jessica Khoury. I cannot stress enough how much influence she has had on The Awakened. She is a fantastic writer, balancing nature and science fiction and romance and all sorts of things. I adore her. Plus she’s a Doctor Who and Harry Potter fan and has a cute husky! She also gave me a super cool Corpus trilogy poster that could potentially be a giveaway soon ;)

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Me and Aaron Hartzler. I was seriously bummed because I had thought he had left before I had the chance to get a picture with him and have him sign my writing advice picture but he reappeared and I managed to grab him. He is amazing and I can’t WAIT for his new book!

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*flails* I am so glad I met Melissa Landers! I fell in love with her books last summer and I just love her. Great writing advice, and she really seemed to appreciate the fact that I throw her books in everyone’s faces haha. And she gave me a cool poster for my wall.

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Me and Claudia Gray. I have to admit, I have yet to read her books but you better bet that I’ll be reading A Thousand Pieces of You soon. Not only does it sound amazing but Claudia is just a badass lady in general!

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After the event, I was invited out to dinner with some readers, some authors and some of the booksellers, and of course, Courtney, as well. I literally had to stop in the middle of dinner and just look around. I am so happy and grateful to be a part of such an awesome community and to be surrounded by such amazing people that I can genuinely call friends. Its incredible and I feel so lucky.

At the end of the day, I headed home and I just felt SO happy. I had such a great day. I was surrounded by readers and librarians and booksellers and bloggers that enjoy the same kind of books that I do and get why they are so incredibly important to me. I was surrounded by fellow writers, both published and unpublished, and got to share in that. I was around all these authors that I admire and that inspire me.

I also am grateful for every single person who came up to me, said hi and was awesome. My little ol blog just keeps getting bigger and bigger and I appreciate when you all say hi to me, whether you’re a reader or a fellow blogger. I love meeting all of you!

And a huge shoutout, hugs and kisses, tears and mountains of gratitude to each and every single author. You are all so incredible and I worship you all. You are all doing what I work hard every single day to accomplish and I appreciate all that you do for your readers. You donate your time and you take pictures and sign books and answer the same questions over and over again and we all appreciate it so much. I also appreciate how wonderful you’ve all been to me. You’ve become my friends, shown me a ton of respect, and have encouraged me and supported me in my own journey to become a published author. I cannot begin to express my gratitude to all of you. I feel incredibly lucky!

And lastly, thanks to Courtney Saldana. You are such a fantastic person and I’m glad that the Ontario TBF brought us together and that I get to work with you every year on such an awesome event. I’m so grateful for you letting me have this event because it has done so much for me as a reader, writer and a blogger. You are the absolute best and I can’t wait for many years to come, especially since one year I WILL be a guest!

Awesome event again and I can’t wait for 2016. Check out some of the guests already confirmed!

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Andrew Smith

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Marissa Meyer

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Leigh Bardugo

Ontario Teen Book Fest is THIS Saturday!

Its finally nearly here and I’m so excited! This is my favorite event of the year, this and I’ve spent a lot of time promoting the hell out of it, and I hope to see you guys there! Come and say hi if you see me!

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When: March 21st, 9 am to 5 pm

Where: Colony High School
3850 E. Riverside Drive
Ontario, CA 91761

This event is a completely free and un-ticketed event! Priority seating WILL be given to teens, but come one, come all! There will also be giveaways and raffles at the Fest, also free! Also, keep scrolling to find a giveaway held by us bloggers!

You can visit the website, to see the full schedule of the day by visiting the official Ontario Teen Book Fest website.

Books WILL be available for purchase at the event, available from Once Upon a Time Bookstore :) They are an amazing company so definitely bring your books from home, but try and support Once Upon a Time by purchasing a book!

AND the official blog tour for the event has concluded and there are a TON of amazing spotlights and interviews with these fantastic authors. Make sure to check out each stop below to read all about these authors and to check out the exclusive interviews!

February 28th: Spotlight on Kasie West — Adventures of a Book Junkie

March 1st: Spotlight on Melissa Landers — What A Nerd Girl Says

March 2nd: Spotlight on Brad Gottfred — Recently Acquired Obsessions

March 3rd: Spotlight on Catherine Linka — Read Now Sleep Later

March 4th: Spotlight on Debra Driza — Read Now Sleep Later

March 5th: Spotlight on Katie Finn — Fearless Kurt Reads YA

March 6th: Spotlight on Claudia Gray — A Bookish Escape

March 7th: Spotlight on Shannon Messenger — People Like Books

March 8th: Spotlight on Lauren Miller — The Thousand Lives

March 9th: Spotlight on Mary Elizabeth Summer — What A Nerd Girl Says

March 10th: Spotlight on Anna Carey — The Reader’s Antidote

March 11th: Spotlight on Sherri Smith — Movies, Shows and Books

March 12th: Spotlight on Elizabeth Ross — Kid Lit Frenzy

March 13th: Spotlight on Jessica Khoury — The Consummate Reader

March 14th: Spotlight on Maurene Goo — The Windy Pages

March 15th: Spotlight on Cecil Castellucci — Nite Lite Book Reviews

March 16th: Spotlight on Jessica Brody — The Romance Bookie

March 17th: Spotlight on Gretchen McNeil — Movies, Shows and Books

March 18th: Spotlight on Aaron Hartzler — Fangirl Feeels

March 19th: Spotlight on Michelle Levy — The Consummate Reader

AND DON’T FORGET YOU HAVE A COUPLE MORE DAYS TO ENTER TO OUR GIVEAWAY!

You have the chance to win one of TWO posters signed by all of the authors above!

Sounds pretty awesome, right? ;)

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Ontario Teen Book Fest 2015 Blog Tour: Spotlight on Melissa Landers

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I am so pleased to be bringing you the Ontario Teen Book Fest blog tour once again! This is one of my absolute favorite events of the year and I’m honored to help promote it as much as I possibly can. There are a ton of wonderful authors this year and an equally wonderful batch of bloggers to help me spotlight them.

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When: March 21st, treat 9 am to 5 pm

Where: Colony High School
3850 E. Riverside Drive
Ontario, buy CA 91761

This event is a completely free and un-ticketed event! Priority seating WILL be given to teens, but come one, come all! There will also be giveaways and raffles at the Fest, also free! Also, keep scrolling to find a giveaway held by us bloggers!

You can visit the website, to see the full schedule of the day by visiting the official Ontario Teen Book Fest website.

Books WILL be available for purchase at the event, available from Once Upon a Time Bookstore :) They are an amazing company so definitely bring your books from home, but try and support Once Upon a Time by purchasing a book!

Its going to be an incredible event and I’m honestly counting down the days! I hope you can come along for the ride, in the days leading up to the event.  Check out the full blog tour here!

Official Blog Tour Schedule

February 28th: Spotlight on Kasie West — Adventures of a Book Junkie

March 1st: Spotlight on Melissa Landers — What A Nerd Girl Says

March 2nd: Spotlight on Anna Carey — The Reader’s Antidote

March 3rd: Spotlight on Cecil Castellucci — Nite Lite Book Reviews

March 4th: Spotlight on Debra Driza — Read Now Sleep Later

March 5th: Spotlight on Katie Finn — Fearless Kurt Reads YA

March 6th: Spotlight on Claudia Gray — A Bookish Escape

March 7th: Spotlight on Shannon Messenger — People Like Books

March 8th: Spotlight on Lauren Miller — The Thousand Lives

March 9th: Spotlight on Elizabeth Ross — Kid Lit Frenzy

March 10th: Spotlight on Brad Gottfred — Recently Acquired Obsessions

March 11th: Spotlight on Sherri Smith — Movies, Shows and Books

March 12th: Spotlight on Mary Elizabeth Summer — What A Nerd Girl Says

March 13th: Spotlight on Jessica Khoury — The Consummate Reader

March 14th: Spotlight on Maurene Goo — The Windy Pages

March 15th: Spotlight on Catherine Linka — Read Now Sleep Later

March 16th: Spotlight on Jessica Brody — The Romance Bookie

March 17th: Spotlight on Gretchen McNeil — Movies, Shows and Books

March 18th: Spotlight on Aaron Hartzler — Fangirl Feeels

March 19th: Spotlight on Michelle Levy — The Consummate Reader

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Today’s Spotlight is on the one and only:

Melissa Landers

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Melissa Landers is a former teacher who left the classroom to pursue other worlds. A proud sci-fi geek, she isn’t afraid to wear her Princess Leia costume in public—just ask her husband and three kids. She lives just outside Cincinnati and writes adult contemporary romance as Macy Beckett.

Her Website / Her Facebook / Her GoodReads / Her Twitter / Her Instagram

Her Books

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Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them.

Handpicked to host the first-ever L’eihr exchange student, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she’ll have inside information about the mysterious L’eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara’s blog following is about to skyrocket.

Still, Cara isn’t sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L’eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn’t seem more alien. She’s certain about one thing, though: no human boy is this good-looking.

But when Cara’s classmates get swept up by anti-L’eihr paranoia, Midtown High School suddenly isn’t safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in Cara’s locker, and a police officer has to escort her and Aelyx to class.

Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn’t just her only friend; she’s fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life—not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet.

Find Her Books at Your Local Bookstore of the Following Links:

Amazon / Barnes and Noble / iBooks / Book Depository

The Interview!

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Nerd Girl: This first one is kind of typical: where did the idea for Alienated and Invaded come from? Why THIS story? 

Melissa: Right before NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2009, I was driving down the interstate thinking, “If I’m going to do this whole NaNo thing, I need a plot. What am I going to write about?” Several ideas came to mind, but I dismissed them because they were boring or cliched. Then – out of nowhere – I thought, “What if a high school senior had to host an alien exchange student?” Boom! I fell in love with the concept, and the rest is history.

Nerd Girl: Congrats on Invaded being published recently! What can we expect from you in the future?

Melissa: Right now, I’m wrapping up STARFLIGHT, a new stand-alone sci-fi romance that should release in 2016.

Just announced as well…

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Nerd Girl: What are some of the things that you strive for when you’re writing, knowing that teens are going to be reading it? 

Melissa: My process is pretty organic, meaning I don’t have any ulterior motives or anything I “strive for” while writing. I just let the story unfold.

Nerd Girl: Cara and Aelyx have easily become one of my favorite book couples! Did you have any inspiration from other fictional couples or even real life couples when creating their relationship?

Melissa: Thank you! I love their relationship, especially the way it gradually evolved from reluctant acquaintances to friends to more-than-friends. No, I didn’t find inspiration from any other couples. Aelyx and Cara are one of a kind.

Nerd Girl: What made you want to write for teens as opposed to adults? 

Melissa: Actually, I never made the choice. As stated above, my process is very organic. I had an idea to write about a teenage girl hosting an alien exchange student, and the story unfolded from there. The second book I wrote (under a pen name) was for adults. Again, not an active choice. The story ideas come to me, I write them, and then figure out who the audience is.

Nerd Girl: Because this is for the Ontario Teen Book Fest, all about the teens, what is one of your favorite memories from when you were a teen? 

Melissa: My favorite teen memory is probably my first date, which didn’t happen until I was sixteen. (My parents were strict.) The night was incredibly special, and as a bonus, it led to my first kiss and my first love. I dated that boy on and off for almost a year.

Nerd Girl: Last question, who is your fictional crush?

Melissa: I have a fickle heart when it comes to literary crushes. With so many amazing book boyfriends out there, who can choose just one? Not this gal!

Giveaway!

Two Prizes, Two Winners!

Each winner will receive an official Ontario Teen Book Fest poster signed by ALL attending authors!

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NaNoWriMo 2014: Actual Writing Advice from Actual Authors!

Hello everyone!

I am so so so so SO excited to be sharing in this post today.

I talk about writing and writing advice a lot when it comes to the blog and my aspiring career as a writer. I am lucky enough that I get to interact with authors on a daily basis, side effects whether over the internet or in person, buy more about and I’ve met SO many inspiring ones that have given me such amazing advice. The advice and guidance that I’ve received over the past two years as whatanerdgirlsays has been so helpful in my journey to becoming a better writer.

Now, I have a goal of 45K words for NaNoWriMo but my biggest goal is to really nail down my character and her development over the course of the story. Evie is my main character and Untitled (it will have a title one day, I promise…) is her story. Its her story in the past, when she’s 15 years old, and its her story in the present, at 19 years old. Both important, and it takes a lot of development. She’s going to develop in both stories and its a little overwhelming but I believe in her and my story.

So when I started planning my NaNoWriMo schedule on the blog, I knew that I wanted a post about writing and writing advice and I wanted to reach out to the authors that I’ve met over the past two years and ask for their assistance in creating and developing characters.

I hope you enjoy. Every single piece of advice of below is unique to this post. Each author was contacted individually and responded individually. There’s seriously awesome, quality advice down there, and I am so grateful for each and every single one of these authors for participating and helping out!

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Jessica Brody, author of The Unremembered Trilogy

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When first fleshing out a new main character, I like to start by asking myself one question: What motivates this person. Is it power? Ambition? Love? Idealism? Reason? This helps me begin to narrow down who this person is and how they think/respond to situations. Someone who is motivated by power is going to react very differently in a crisis than someone who is motivated by feeling loved. The second question I ask myself is “What does this character want?” And I don’t mean after the book has started. What do they want BEFORE the first page even begins. It always needs to be something tangible and concrete. Like to win a sports championship. To make it onto a team. To graduate valedictorian. This immediately focuses the story around a central goal. It gives the story direction and purpose before the plot has even begun. When your character’s goals are clear, the reader is more likely to come along for the ride.

Elana K. Arnold, author of the Sacred duology and Burning

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When I was a younger writer, I used to disbelieve it when I’d hear people talk about their characters surprising them, their characters heading off in directions they hadn’t planned. Impossible, I’d think. Your characters ARE YOU. They can’t disobey you… they aren’t REAL. For me, characters were like dolls that I bounced around from situation to situation.

I think that’s why I had a hard time completing a project, or even falling deeply in love with one. There was no RISK if I walked away from a story, no real LOSS. Honestly, I don’t know what changed. I think I got older. (Actually, I know I got older.) But over time, I started to become surprised when a plotted-out scene or chapter took a turn away from my outline. Pleasantly surprised.

With INFANDOUS, which will be published in March 2015, plot took a backseat to following around Sephora Golding, my main character, and seeing what she would do. Try this–give your character a secret, and then see where it takes you.

Livia Blackburne, author of Midnight Thief

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I’ve found it useful to have all my characters tell their life story and narrate the events of the novel itself in their own voice, with their own commentary.

Katherine Ewell, author of Dear Killer

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My main tip in character development is this: make your main character at least a little bit unlikeable. However, no matter how unlikeable said main character is, your reader has to root for them anyway. The easiest way to make a reader like an unlikeable character is to show said character’s weakness and humanity right off the bat: their fears, their likes, their dislikes, what makes them cry, what comforts them, etc. And you can go pretty far with how unlikeable they are at the surface level, take it from someone who knows! Some of the most vivid, fun characters out there are severely messed up. (Take a look at Game of Thrones for tons of great examples.) I feel as if the worst thing you could do in character creation is make a character that has no flaws, or has too few flaws: it is in their flaws that characters and their stories come alive.

Cora Carmack, author of the Losing It series and Rusk University series 

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When it comes to characterization, I rely pretty heavily on the idea that my main character’s desire should shape the plot, instead of the plot shaping my main character. I don’t want my MC to be just a cog in the bigger mechanism of the story. I want them being the one *making* the machine move, rather than just being a component of it. When I was studying theatre in college, we took a lot of time talking about our character’s objectives and motivations – asking “What does this character want? How will they get it?” and things like that – and that has continued to inform the way I shape my characters.

Tonya Kuper, author of Anomaly

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Every character, especially the main character, has to have a GMC – Goal, Motivation, & Conflict – in relation to the plot. I usually have a pretty good picture of my characters before I start plotting, but after the GMC is decided, I know what matters to them, which, in my mind, is the most important thing to know about her main character.

Victoria Scott, author of Fire and Flood and The Collector

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I often use friends and family members when creating characters. I note people’s real life quirks and incorporate them into my fictional world. For example, my husband points to what he wants on a menu when ordering. It doesn’t matter if it’s a difficult-to-pronounce dish, or french fires…that man is holding up the menu for the waitress to see, and pointing to his selection. As if she needs to see the item to understand. No matter how many times I call this to his attention, he still does it. That quirk will probably show up in one of my characters to make them more memorable. My advice is to watch the people around you, and keep notes on your phone.

Sara Benincasa, author of Great

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You have to love your main character. Even if you hate your main character sometimes, you have to love her. Because if you don’t love her, you won’t want to spend the time it takes to churn out 50,000 or more words centered around her. You don’t need to love her choices. You don’t need to love her attitude. But you do need to love her, somehow, in some corner of your soul

Catherine Linka, author of A Girl Called Fearless

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Getting a handle on a character can be pretty haphazard, because we might start out not really knowing them at all. One thing that helps me is finding an object that captures my character. I knew Yates wore tee shirts with quotes, but when I found Thoreau’s quote– “Let your life be the counter friction to stop the machine”–it hit me that was exactly what Yates believed and who he was at heart. In the sequel to A Girl Called Fearless, it was a scary religious tattoo that nailed the character of a new antagonist and suggested his unbalanced righteousness.

CJ Redwine, author of the Defiance trilogy

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If YOU aren’t connected to your characters, no one else will be connected either. Characters aren’t scenery to populate your world. This includes secondary characters. Characters aren’t pawns to use in playing out your conflict. Characters CREATE conflict. Connection takes time and effort, just like it does in real life. Take the time to get to know your characters on an intimate level. Find out what their deepest fear is, what they most regret, what they truly want more than anything, and the secret they hope no one discovers.

Lauren Oliver, author of the Delirium Trilogy, Before I Fall and Panic

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Do some work to understand what your character wants, and what your character needs, and how these might be different. Think about your character’s formative memories. How does he/she react under pressure? When frightened? What does she like to do for fun? What are her nervous habits? Where does she go to recharge? You have to know your character the way you know your best friend.

Gretchen McNeil, author of Ten, Possess, 3:59 and Get Even

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I start with the plot, actually, and the role of my main character in the story. What part does she need to play? What type of person does she need to be so that all of her choices are realistically motivated? Her personality is shaped by the plot, and once I know the core of that, I can begin to layer in the idiosyncracies of character: how she dresses, what she likes to eat, what songs on Pandora make her want to sing along or change the channel, and how she feels about everyone around her. Voila! Character!

Lindsay Cummings, author of The Murder Complex

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Characters are my favorite part of a book. Everyone is different…but I always start with a character, and build my world around him/her. For me, the best way to develop my characters and get to know them is to interview them–as if they were real people. I find that, even the silliest questions will give you a glimpse into who each character is, and what motivates them.

Bethany Hagen, author of Landry Park

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One of my favorite tricks for developing a character is to make a character sheet before I get started. I use these sheets to help me keep track of a character’s physical attributes (and I might even attach a picture of an actor or model to help me visualize the character.) And I also use these sheets to develop a character’s personality traits: their likes and dislikes, their hopes and dreams, their past mistakes. Not only is it a useful tool for conceiving of a character, but it makes a handy reference to come back to during the drafting process.

Beth Revis, author of the Across the Universe trilogy and The Body Electric

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When coming up with your main character, don’t be afraid to go into your own personality to find traits. He or she doesn’t need to be an exact replica of you, but if you have a strong emotion—a fear, a desire, a love or hate—build off that emotion to influence your characters. I was never stuck on a space ship alone, but I made Amy of Across the Universe feel alone the same way I felt alone when I had to go to college, 200 miles from home, with no one I knew near me. I never had my memories messed with like Ella in The Body Electric, but I have had relatives who were affected by Alzheimer’s Disease. Build on these real feelings you have to create realistic characters.

Mindy McGinnis, author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust

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I just let my characters go, be real people within the world that I built and let them react naturally, however they want. To me, this is the most organic way of building a “real” fake person.

Marissa Meyer, author of The Lunar Chronicles

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After I’ve determined the basics of who my protagonist is (name, age, gender, job, etc.), I like to ask myself two important questions. 1: What does this character want? Giving them a goal from page one will immediately give your story somewhere to go. (Although it’s normal for that goal or desire to change over the course of the story.) And 2: What is this character afraid of? Whatever they’re most afraid of is something that they should have to face (possibly multiple times), and will therefore give them somewhere to grow.

Tamora Pierce, author of The Song of Lioness, The Immortals, and the Protector of the Small quartets and more

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The way I write a character is–usually–to start with a person I know or admire (actor, musician, professional wrestler, the character played by an actor). The look has to grab me for the vague outline of the character I need–teacher/mentor, law enforcement in a very loose era, street kid, Then I go through my baby name books till I find the right name. Once I have the right name and the right look, I generally know the character: intellectual, absent-minded, can be very sexy when he wants to be, but easily distractible, and very dangerous when crossed–that was one. Then I needed the slacker daughter of two famous over-achievers who ended up as a spy in a foreign country. I looked through my files of pictures of girls until I had three or four I thought interesting, then I waited for one to grow on me–the one with her head tipped to the side and the knowing smile. I knew she was a smart-alec, really good at flirting and dancing and being silly while taking in everything around her, a daddy’s girl who lived to make mom nuts, but underneath she needs something to fight for.

Sarah Skilton, author of High and Dry and Bruised

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In my latest book High & Dry, a Young Adult novel written in the style of a hardboiled detective mystery, Palm Valley high school students “traffic in labels.” As a result, it’s very difficult for my main character, Charlie, to break free from his perceived identity, that of a varsity soccer star with a reputation for playing rough. The problem is, Charlie’s identity is a front he projects to the world in order to survive. I needed to show both sides of his personality: that of a tough guy jock accepted by his peers, and that of a heart-broken sci-fi nerd–a trait he keeps hidden. For example, Charlie tries to win back his ex-girlfriend, Ellie, by suggesting they both take Ellie’s little brother to a sci-fi movie. In this way, he gets to show Ellie he’s a “nice guy” while also indulging his own secret hope of seeing the movie. When constructing a main character, ask yourself, “Who is this person really, and who does he/she pretend to be?” The answers may surprise you!

Cinda Williams Chima, author of The Heir Chronicles and the Seven Realms series

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After publishing nine books and writing several more, I still haven’t settled on the best way to develop character. Everything goes much more smoothly if I know the character very well from the beginning. And yet, that process of filling out a character questionnaire or deciding what he has in his pockets or dresser drawer doesn’t really work for me.

With the Seven Realms series, I knew the main characters, Han Alister, Raisa ana’Marrianna, and Micah sul’Bayar very well, because I had already written extensively about them as adults. So all I had to do was think about what they would have been like at sixteen and seventeen. Because I had their characters well in hand, story flowed more or less effortlessly.

But writing three hundred thousand words about a character before you get started on a novel isn’t really efficient, is it? So mostly, I get to know characters in the same way as we get to know people in real life–by spending time with them. In other words, I get to know them while writing my first draft. And once I decide who they are, in revision, I go back and strengthen those elements of character and make them more consistent all the way along.

That’s my process—but it may not be yours. There is more than one way to craft characters and craft story. One of the first jobs a writer must do is find out what works for them.

Crystal Perkins, author of The Griffin Brothers series

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I try to have a cover idea when I start writing. When I look at the girl and guy-I write in dual POV-I think of how they’ll speak and act. It’s nice to have something, even just a picture to look at. Then when I think of them in my head, they already have a distinct personality.

Ann Stampler, author of Where It Began and Afterparty

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You know all those cheesy drama-class moments in B movies where the teacher starts panting that the kids need to beeeeee the wind in the trees (or whatever)?  That actually has a lot in common with the way I develop main characters : method writing.  I try to see the story through the eyes of the character in a very literal way.  While I’m writing, I don’t observe the character from the outside, but I try to see what she sees.  I think this helps me to stay with the character’s feelings and emotional reactions, and to remain in her point of view.

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Cover Reveal: “Get Dirty” by Gretchen McNeil

Okay, case this isn’t an official cover reveal, but I’m making it an official cover reveal here on my blog because I absolutely adore Gretchen McNeil and I LOVED the first book of the series and I’m ready to reveal the super cool cover of the second book!

But first off, let’s learn more about Gretchen, the series itself, and then we’ll talk about “Get Dirty”.

About Gretchen McNeil

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Gretchen McNeil is the author of a handful of YA novels, mostly known for the high body count that tends to show up in her books. Her first novel is Possess, about a teen exorcist, followed by Ten, which follows ten teenagers, trapped on an island with a serial killer. 3:59 is her science fiction parallel worlds where two girls, who are basically each other, switch places in their worlds and things kind of go haywire from there. Her most release is Get Even, about a group of four girls who form a secret society to get revenge on teachers, students, and bullies in their school. The sequel, Get Dirty, will be hitting bookshelves next summer. She is a former opera singer, has a wicked sense of humor, and got married at one of the best bookstores in the entire world. Because this is all important to know.

Website / Twitter / Instagram / Facebook / GoodReads

About Get Even

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Bree, Olivia, Kitty, and Margot have nothing in common—at least that’s what they’d like the students and administrators of their elite private school to think. The girls have different goals, different friends, and different lives, but they share one very big secret: They’re all members of Don’t Get Mad, a secret society that anonymously takes revenge on the school’s bullies, mean girls, and tyrannical teachers.

When their latest target ends up dead with a blood-soaked “DGM” card in his hands, the girls realize that they’re not as anonymous as they thought—and that someone now wants revenge on them. Soon the clues are piling up, the police are closing in . . . and everyone has something to lose.

Check it out on GoodReads!

About Get Dirty 

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The members of Don’t Get Mad aren’t just mad anymore . . . they’re afraid. And with Margot in a coma and Bree stuck in juvie, it’s up to Olivia and Kitty to try to catch their deadly tormentor. But just as the girls are about to go on the offensive, Ed the Head reveals a shocking secret that turns all their theories upside down. The killer could be anyone, and this time he—or she—is out for more than just revenge.

The girls desperately try to discover the killer’s identity as their personal lives are falling apart: Donté is pulling away from Kitty and seems to be hiding a secret of his own, Bree is under house arrest, and Olivia’s mother is on an emotional downward spiral. The killer is closing in, the threats are becoming more personal, and when the police refuse to listen, the girls have no choice but to confront their anonymous friend . . . or die trying.

Check it out on GoodReads!

This book will be hitting shelves on June 16th, 2015! Make sure to pre-order this (and check out Gretchen’s social medias because she always has awesome things going on with her book releases) and pick up the first book, Get Even, if you haven’t read it yet!

And even better!

Head over to Me, My Shelf and I to get your hands on the VERY first ARC of the book! I know I entered and you should too! 

Meeting Josie Angelini, Stephanie Perkins, Natalie Whipple, Kiersten White, Sarah J Maas, Gretchen McNeil and Anna Carey!

Also, prostate an appropriate title for this blog post would be “I’ve Neglected my Blog and I’ve Done a TON of Author Events in the Past Week…”

September has been quite a busy month for me, cost personal stuff aside. It feels like EVERYONE has released a book this month and decided to come to California. Which I’m not complaining about at all. I love when authors come here, patient especially ones that I’ve seen before, like a lot of the ones you see in the title above. Authors make me happy!

First, last week, I met Josie Angelini again. She’s SUCH a sweetheart and she totally remembered me from ALA and Fierce Reads in Vegas back in July. Her newest release, Trial By Fire, is out now and its absolutely incredible. It blew me away and I loved being able to finally tell her that! When I saw her at ALA, I had just started it so I didn’t have much to say. She brought us cupcakes (OMG Sprinkles…) and signed our books and looked so absolutely adorable with her preggers belly.

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Josie Angelini!

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Mini cupcakes from Sprinkles!

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SO fun.

Then a few days later, I headed down with my friends Alex and Cassie to Oceanside, about an hour drive away, to see Kiersten White at her book launch for Illusions of Fate with special guests, Stephanie Perkins and Natalie Whipple. We headed down early, grabbed some lunch and spent WAY too much money on books.

All of the authors were incredible. I haven’t read anything by Kiersten or Natalie but they just blew me away. They had great advice and they talked a lot about writing. I had actually just gotten a rejection from one of the agents I had queried and was feeling kind of crappy. But they talked so much about writing, the struggle, the up and down emotions that come with it, and all of that. It meant a lot to hear all of that.

I got my books signed, chatted up the authors, talked about writing and books and we headed home. I fangirled just a *little* bit when Stephanie asked about my book and what it was about. Maybe, just maybe, one day she’ll read it!

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Stephanie Perkins

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Natalie Whipple

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Kiersten White

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Oh yeah, and I got carried away and bought two other books. Not that I needed them but pssh, I’ve been dying to buy lots of books lately. Book shopping is fantastic therapy. I’m just saying.

Then this past Saturday, I met Sarah J Maas for the third or fourth time. I’ve honestly forgotten how many times I’ve met her. Probably because we always laugh and joke about our names because they’re the same except for one small letter. She was doing a signing at a Costco nearby and also at the Barnes and Noble, the Americana. I’ve been avoiding the Americana since the Gayle Forman event, because they’re just so massively unorganized so I decided getting my Heir of Fire signed at Costco was the best way to go.

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Probably laughing at how much crap we give each other for our names haha. I love this picture so much.

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Then last night, I headed down to the Last Bookstore in Los Angeles for a launch party. If you’ve never been to the Last Bookstore, its a must when you hit LA. Its such an incredible indie bookstore and its just straight up beautiful. I love it. Gretchen McNeil and Anna Carey were having a launch party for their new releases, Get Even and Blackbird, respectively.

There were free drinks, cupcakes, and laughs to be had. I chatted with lots of authors that I know and love like Jessica Brody, Leigh Bardugo, Morgan Matson, Jennifer Bosworth, Ann Stampler and more. I adore them all. I love how many author friends I’ve made and I love that I see them so often, supporting each other.

I’ve already read Gretchen’s new book and I grabbed a couple books by Anna, including her new release, because I’ve heard she’s great.

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Anna Carey and Gretchen McNeil :D

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Me and Anna Carey

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Me and the absolutely adorable, wonderful and unforgettable Gretchen McNeil :)

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My books PLUS a sneak peek of Get Dirty, the sequel to Get Even. After stalking Gretchen at WonderCon to get my hands on an ARC of Get Even, I am anxiously awaiting the sequel with much impatience.

So that was the craziness of my last week and a half! LOTS of authors and it only gets more exciting in the next couple weeks, including RJ Palacio, Kami Garcia, and more. Check back soon for more and thanks, as always, for reading, and supporting me!

Hope to see some of you at some events soon!

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