Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Totally Awesome Year In Review

So, no doubt, this was a pretty awesome year. Two manuscripts, one agent, an entire community of friends and a LOT of books later, I'm thinking back on all the highlights that made up 2012.

Life: My brother raised over $500 for Maryland Special Olympics. 
He plunged into the Chesapeake Bay wearing this penguin costume. He's pretty much awesome. You can help him raise money this year too–I'll confirm the penguin costume wasn't ruined too much last year.

Writing: My YA contemporary/magical realism was on its last legs in the slushpile–but I was still trying.

Life: Spent a lot of time with my dear friend, Kelly, in New York who helped me come to grips that after nine months in the slushpile, my YA contemporary/magical realism needed to be put down.

I also made the panda hat happen.

Writing: Finally received that one rejection that made me scrap the YA contemporary/magical realism, dove head first into a YA contemporary romance–wrote like A. Crazy. Person.

Life: Guys, I was writing like a crazy person. Seriously, I had no life.

Writing: My husband and I refer to this as "the dark time." Not because anything bad happened, but because I was so sucked into my new story, I didn't do much else.

Life: Life resumed, because after you write like a crazy person, it must. We got out, I ate cupcakes, I learned to play the drums, I held this cute chick (and made a weird face).

Okay, no. I'm totally lying to you. This was the one weekend my husband made me go out because I had no life. I was in crazy mode getting feedback and revising the query and manuscript for my YA contemporary romance. I was going back into the slushpile and I had a battle plan.

Writing: YA contemporary romance was almost done, and then revision mode, and then out into the slushpile. I held my breath.

Life: Yeah. I won't lie. There still wasn't much of one.

Writing: Three words: THE. WRITERS. VOICE.

Do you know why you MUST do contests? Because it seriously is like showing up on the first day of camp and saying, "You mean...there are other people who just want to spend their days writing stories about teenagers and posting funny things on Twitter?? Where have you been all my life???"

Not only was I mentored by the fabulous Monica BW, but I basically met all my new writer friends in one contest. In one word, it was epic.

Life (or Writing, I'm not sure. They kinda go together now.): Oh, you mean the month in which the amazing LAUREN MACLEOD called me, signed me, and changed my entire life?? Know what the best part was? I could finally tell everyone who knew me in real life that I'd been writing (Yes, yes. I was a closeted writer). It felt a little something like this: 

Life: Things were awesome! I think this was also around the time I met Hayley Farris, who entered my life as a medical editor and quickly become my dearest friend, 2 AM text message buddy, and knower of all my secrets.

Writing: I was trying to figure out what to write next, so I started book binging hard core. I read, like, everything. EVERYTHING.

Life: Cupcakes, yo. Lots of cupcakes. I baked my ass off–mostly because it was everyone and their grandmother's birthday (Happy 83rd, Nan!) but also because I just really like cupcakes.

Writing: Started batting around a few ideas. None really panned out, and that's okay because I had a lot of living to do. 

Life: Celebrated my two year anniversary with my best friend and awesome rock star husband. He inspires every story I ever want to tell.

Writing: I needed a new project like whoa. And I was on the hunt to find it. Critique partner and awesome friend, Dahlia, said, "This Project K idea of yours sounds pretty good. Why don't you write that?"

I pulled the laptop back out.

Life: Pumpkin patches? Is that what we did? I'm not sure. Really, who cares at this point–I had an idea burning inside me. Most of my friends had to deal with me going back to being a misanthropic recluse. Sorry guys!

Writing: Research for Project K was well underway. I was excited to start up a new WIP and I had my eyes set on NaNo.

Life: If you haven't noticed much, my writing habits tend to tilt the Life/Writing scales.

Writing: Na.No.Wri.Mo. It was on like Donkey Kong. I had my 50,000 words in by the third week. I was on a super roll and it felt really good to be back in the writing sattle. I settled in for DecRevMo (December Revision Month).

Life: Excited to ring in the New Year with friends in New York. Excited to start seeing more of that life column fill up in January and February 2013.

Writing: Revising Project K and also have an idea cooking for the next WIP. So here we go again!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

My Absolute Favorite Books of 2012

Due to the two manuscripts I wrote this year, I had to adjust my GoodReads Reading Challenge Goal down to 45 books from the 75 I was originally aiming for. At first, I was totally bummed I wasn't able to read that much, but, if you think about it, 45 books is A LOT of books–and from that comes favorites!

So without further adieu, here are my TOP FIVE books of 2012:

1.) Something Like Normal, Trish Doller 
From GoodReadsWhen Travis returns home from a stint in Afghanistan, his parents are splitting up, his brother’s stolen his girlfriend and his car, and he’s haunted by nightmares of his best friend’s death. It’s not until Travis runs into Harper, a girl he’s had a rocky relationship with since middle school, that life actually starts looking up. And as he and Harper see more of each other, he begins to pick his way through the minefield of family problems and post-traumatic stress to the possibility of a life that might resemble normal again. Travis’s dry sense of humor, and incredible sense of honor, make him an irresistible and eminently lovable hero.

What I loved: Has there ever been a book where you threaten bodily harm if someone you know hasn't read it yet? This was that book for me. No lie, everyone (EVERYONE) got this book from me for Christmas this year. The minute Travis stepped off that plane, I wanted to know everything about his life. I loved every. single. thing. about this book. The complex relationships Travis had with his family, his marine buddies, his best friend, Charlie, and the girl he betrayed, Harper. I was intrigued by his struggles with PTSD and adjusting back to a post-war life. And it was so interesting to read a contemporary with a strong romance at the center of the story from a guy's POV.

Read this one. If you don't, I'll threaten more than bodily harm.

2.) The Fault In Our Stars, John Green 
From GoodReadsDiagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now. Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

What I loved: I mean, what can I say that everyone hasn't? Oh, maybe this: Okay? Okay.

3.) In Honor, Jessi Kirby
From GoodReadsHonor receives her brother’s last letter from Iraq three days after learning that he died, and opens it the day his fellow Marines lay the flag over his casket. Its contents are a complete shock: concert tickets to see Kyra Kelly, her favorite pop star and Finn’s celebrity crush.

Grief-stricken and determined to grant Finn’s last request, she only gets as far as the driveway before running into Rusty, Finn’s best friend since third grade and his polar opposite. Rusty is much the same as Honor remembers him: arrogant, stubborn . . . and ruggedly good-looking. Neither one is what the other would ever look for in a road trip partner, but the two of them set off together, on a voyage that makes sense only because it doesn’t.

What I loved: I was really surprised when another military book quickly rose to the top of my favorite list. Rusty almost knocked John After down off his book boyfriend pedestal. He was such a great, complex love interest. Jessi Kirby writes beautifully and is possibly the master of show-not-tell. I loved how she could write grief and humor and scenery so well. I'm anxiously awaiting her next book, Golden.

4.) Fracture, Megan Miranda 
From GoodReadsA lot can happen in eleven minutes. Decker can run two miles easily in eleven minutes. I once wrote an English essay in ten. No lie. And God knows Carson Levine can talk a girl out of her clothes in half that time.
Eleven minutes might as well be eternity underwater. According to the lessons from health class, it only takes three minutes without air for loss of consciousness. Permanent brain damage begins at four minutes. And then, when the oxygen runs out, full cardiac arrest occurs. Death is possible at five minutes. Probable at seven. Definite at ten.

Decker pulled me out at eleven.

What I loved: I loved this entire premise. The voice in that pitch alone pulled me right in and wouldn't let go. I loved Delaney's very strained friendship with Decker after her accident. I was scared when strange and deadly occurrences followed her. I didn't want the book to end–but oh, how it ended! I can't tell you, but it's so good.

5.) Of Poseidon, Anna Banks 
From GoodReadsGalen is the prince of the Syrena, sent to land to find a girl he's heard can communicate with fish. Emma is on vacation at the beach. When she runs into Galen — literally, ouch! — both teens sense a connection. But it will take several encounters, including a deadly one with a shark, for Galen to be convinced of Emma's gifts. Now, if he can only convince Emma that she holds the key to his kingdom . . .

What I loved: I love a good mermaid story, and for those who try to pass this one off as “another mermaid book,” DON’T. Of Poseidon combines suspense and romance. And Anna Banks is FUNNY. The dialogue was witty and really fun to read.

I loved the way the book flips from Emma's first person POV to Galen's third person POV. The chemistry between these two characters was fantastic! There were soft, romantic moments and playful, flirtatious dialogue. It was everything I crave in a solid YA read.

And here are a few books I'm excited to read in 2013:

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