Monday, December 22, 2014

A 2014 Recap

You can't go wrong when you start your year off finding non-diseased ticker tape in Times Square. We spent the night with Kelly and Max (and Declan!) in Harlem and in the morning had our annual New Years walk to Times Square to see all the carnage.

I blogged a little about almost dying at the Strand here

And the year only looked better when I tagged along with Hannah and Jen to ALA Midwinter. It was in Philadelphia this year, so how could I say no? I came home with a truckload of ARCs, prompting Shannon to ask, "These were all free, right??" as he helped me unload the car.

Much thanks to Hannah and Jen who helped me learn the ropes at my first convention!

I spent a lot of time with BFF Kelly in New York. And in May she called me with the biggest surprise of all--she's pregnant with baby #2! She's due any day now so I'll be flooding everyone's feed with the most awesome baby ever.  

Fun Fact: Kelly always comes up with the best names. She helps me cast all my characters.

I also spent a lot of time with Ms. Jodi Meadows this year. I crashed on her couch twice this year, once for the Charlottesville for the Virginia Festival of the Book and again for Joy Hensley's book launch for Rites of Passage

I also got to tag along with her for the Frederick Book Festival in Maryland. Here she is on a panel with the adorable Julie Anne Lindsey!

And here's Jodi with Joy Hensley at the Chapter by Chapter Book Rave in New Rochelle. I was there with BFF Kelly, where we met Jay Crownover, CJ Redwine, Lee Bross, Elizabeth Eulberg and soooo many others. 

Funny Story: Kelly and I snuck in early with coffee and waters and anytime security tried to kick us out, we had all the authors say "they're with me." 

Clan MacLeod had a ton of book releases this year. In celebration, we began a tradition of posting our pictures in the book's theme in a blog hop. You can see all of mine here. If you want to see everyone's pic, all my pictures are linked to the original blog.

It wasn't all work this year. I spent a lot more time with family, which was something I was really missing. My brother got married, which brought us all together, and I'm excited to see everyone this week where I will CRUSH them with my gift-giving skills in the first annual gift Pollyanna.

I got in some beach time at Cape May with Shannon and Nelly. There's something about that beach town that feels like home to me.
I have a tendency to write while on vacation, and give some tips here.


I read a lot this year. I mean, a few books (*cough 127 at the date of this post*). 
Here's a few of my favorites. 
And here's a few I'm sooo excited to read in 2015.

2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Valerie has completed her goal of reading 60 books in 2014!

In fact, my TBR was so out of control, I had to get two new bookcases (with doors!).

And I was writing the whole time. I turned in a finished manuscript to my agent and started churning out another one. My post-it board began to fill up with ideas and plot points, and hopefully I'll be turning in something else soon.
 I got to share a little about my writing process here.
And how to use the Post-It plotting method there.

So I'm going into 2015 feeling pretty good. This was definitely a packed year of people and reading and writing, but I think I'm finally finding a healthy balance of work and fun. 
So bring it, New Year! I'm ready.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

My Most Anticipated Books in 2015

Hooray! A new pub year is upon us! Here are the books I can't wait to get my grubby hands on.

Skyscraping by Cordelia Jensen

The Devil You Know by Trish Doller

Violent Ends by Shaun Hutchinson

And here are the 2015 books that I can completely vouch for, because I've read the ARCs and they are amaaaazing!
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

Under A Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows

My Favorite Books from 2014

Oooo...I love end of year lists! One of my favorite things to do is look back and read about all the great books and music and events from the last year.

This year, I've crushed my GoodReads reading challenge goal of 60 books. I'm currently sitting on 125 books read--the most I've ever read in my entire life. Of all those books, here are my favorites in 2014.

Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
My Review
Interview with Alyssa

I love Peter Pan retellings, and did not think anything could ever top Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson..until I read Second Star. Set on the coast of California with surfer kids fighting over beach turf, SECOND STAR spins the story of Peter Pan on its ear, with appearances by Belle, Nanna, but leaves the crocodiles at home. Overall, a strong contemporary retelling full of romance, adventure and mystique.

The Walled City by Ryan Graudin
My Review

After all the BEA buzz about this title, I was thrilled to get an eARC from LBKids! Based on the walled city of Kowloon Walled City in China, The Walled City delivered a heart breaking story about three teens entrapped within it. The pacing was fast, the characters so real, and the writing was beautiful.

Like No Other by Una LaMarche
My Review

I read Like No Other in one sitting. I picked it up at ALA Midwinter and couldn't wait to crack it open--and rightfully so. Publishers Weekly, Indie Next, the Junior Library Guild, Los Angeles Times and Entertainment Weekly all had Like No Other on their lists.

Star-crossed romances were kinda my thing this year, and this one was my favorite. I loved how Devorah and Jaxon met and the romance that blossomed between them. Think West Side Story in Brooklyn.

Plus One by Elizabeth Fama
Interview with Elizabeth

I admit that I fell in love with the cover first--and the story did not disappoint. When overpopulation becomes a problem, society's conclusion is to split society into shifts: those who live in the day (Rays) and those who live at night (Smudges). This was a star-crossed love story that trips into a government conspiracy.

Wildflower, by Alecia Whitaker


There's been a lot books out this year about celebrity main characters (or their friends), but this one was my favorite. Bird is young and a little naive, but full of talent and has a good heart. She balances her struggle to follow her dream with the responsibilities she feels for her friends and family. This one has a sequel out next year and I really want to continue reading Bird's journey.

Monday, November 17, 2014

How To Write On Vacation

I've hijacked many vacations to write. Mostly because writing has become such a huge part of my daily routine, Like brushing my teeth, it just feels icky when I don't do it.

Get out of your comfort zone. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got after I signed with my agent and my writing became less hobby and more of a job was, "Learn to write anywhere."

A lot of writers say they can only write under certain circumstances: a certain room, noise level, lighting, when all your books are stacked just so or the M&Ms are sorted into bowls by color. And I get it. It's not easy to write just anywhere. But it's important that you try to block all that out and try.

Don't force it. The last thing anyone wants to do is work on vacation. And there are a ton of distractions. Be distracted. Good ideas for stories don't happen while you're staring at a blinking cursor and a blank page. Get out and enjoy yourself. You're way more observational when you're on vacation. Take in the scenery. People watch. Mentally collect all the details to take back with you so you can write them down.

=Look for down times. You do a lot of waiting while you're on vacation. While you're on the plane. Waiting to board. While everyone is getting ready to go out for the night. Before you go out for the day. Little five minute writing sessions add up over a week.

Set small goals. Don't go into vacation thinking you are going to get "a lot" done. Don't set a goal or make up a challenge. Non-numerical goals work best for me, like, "I just want to finish this scene" or "I only want to get this piece of dialogue out of my head."

Relax. If you don't write today, don't worry about it. If you don't manage to write the next day, that's okay too. You are on vacation. You didn't pay hundreds (or thousands--you baller, you!) to spend it stressed out over writing. Any progress is good and a plus in my book.

Happy writing! 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

For Your TBR Pile - All The Bright Places

All The Bright Places
By Jennifer Niven
Published: January 6th, Knopf

From GoodReads: Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him. Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister's recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

Thank you NetGalley and Random House for the eARC!

My Thoughts:

When I saw that this book was being compared to Eleanor & Park and The Fault In Our Stars, I was a bit wary. Those are lofty titles to live up to! Here's the thing, though: it was better.

Romances are commonplace in all teen stories, but it takes something really special for them to carry the entire story on its back. Finch is a compelling boy, full of life but obsessed with death, and a perfect match to help pull Violet out of her dark place after losing her sister. Together, they go on an assigned scavenger hunt around their home state, learning how to live in the present and enjoy what they have today.

I'm a huge fan of heart wrenching, soul shattering contemporaries, and easily related to Violet, who wanted nothing more than to leave her childhood behind and move on to her adult life. Finch was every bit swoony, but different and unique as a wildcard character could be. I couldn't wait to see what he would say or do next. I shattered at the end of this book. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What's Up Wednesday - 11.5.14

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up.

You can participate by going to Jaime's blog here. Or Erin's blog there.

I can't believe it's November already! What happened to Fall?

What I'm Reading

It's been a slower reading week for me. I'm concentrating on writing and finishing my own book, so I've refused to plan out my monthly reading. My plan is to just pick things up when I feel like it. While I was on vacation, I read Cynthia Hand's Unearthly and really loved it. I have the second book on my Kindle and have been starting and stopping it periodically when I have time to read. It's such a fun series!

I've also been listening to The Selection series on audio book--which I am so late to the party, but love! I'm finishing up The One this week.

 Hallowed (Unearthly, #2)The One (The Selection, #3)

What I'm Writing / What Works For Me

I had to replot my entire story over the weekend. I've been using this Post-It method to help me juggle all of the pieces of my story. I used blue and pink Post-Its to mark my two external conflicts, and the purple is for any flash back scenes (which I use very sparingly).

I drew red boxes around any clashes with the antagonists and tabs for scenes where I have holes or still need to write from scratch. So, hopefully, I'll be flying through this in November.

What Else I'm Up To

Post-vacation, I'm easing back into working and trying to take care of Nelly, my thirteen-year-old cocker spaniel. We've had her since she was a puppy and she's been having a lot of health problems lately. We've been going back and forth to the vet and it looks like we may have to make "The Decision" soon (something Shannon and I are just not prepared to do just yet).

But the good thing is that we've been spending a lot of time with her and I'm trying to keep the focus on taking things day by day. This is a picture of a good day! :)

Have an awesome week--see you next Wednesday! <3

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Currently Reading - November 2014

Currently...I'm not reading. Well, wait. That's not true. I can't NOT read. But for the month of November, I'm not going to set a goal or pick out a specific pile of books. I'll still read, just not in any organized way. 
I hit my GoodReads Reading Goal of 60 books in July, and since it's all been a snowball effect. I'm lingering around 105 now, which is the most I've ever read in a year!

Some favorites have been Maggie Stiefvater's Blue Lily, Lily Blue, Cynthia Hand's The Last Time We Say Goodbye, and Kiera Cass's Selection Series. 

Valerie's bookshelf: read

Not a Drop to Drink
Shooting Stars: My Unexpected Life Photographing Hollywood's Most Famous
Blue Lily, Lily Blue
The Tyrant's Daughter
Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast
When I Was the Greatest
Under a Painted Sky
A Stolen Life
The Last Time We Say Goodbye
The Elite
The Selection
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Valerie Cole's favorite books »
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