Guilt

Tighten your lips
Tighten your belt

Tighten your stitches-

But don’t bleed.

 

Beg for your wants

Beg for your hopes

Beg on your knees-

But don’t need.

 

Heighten your goals

Heighten your dreams

Heighten your ambitions-

but don’t fall.

 

So we sew,

And we staple,

And we burn when we’re able,

And it cauterizes into scars we are sure no one can see.

 

One more layer,

A lying smile,

A lying laugh to hide a thought

That hides the track lines from a past we never get to leave.

 

But we all have them

Running up our arms,

Buried beneath skin,

Under sleeves of lovely silk.

 

The Winners have their losses.

The Triumphs have their falls.

The Saviors have their sacrifice

The Survivors have their guilt.

 

 

 

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The Publishing Industry is Subjective

If you are a writer who’s ever pitched a novel, or simply googled insight into the publishing industry, chances are you’ve heard this before.

I know I’ve heard it. I’ve experienced it. I’ve even accepted it. But it wasn’t until this past week I truly understood it. The following experience gave me a different view on those words.

About a month ago, I was given the opportunity to judge the first round of a writing contest. It was a simple “answer these questions, see if you qualify, and you can judge” sort of thing, but I was still looking forward to it. I couldn’t wait to see what the contest process was like from the other side! I opened the entries with excitement, read through them, made notes, and instantly attached to a certain story.  A week later I reread my samples, focusing on the technicalities and quality of writing. I carefully considered, tried to provide helpful feedback, and sent my judged files back to the contest coordinator with a sense of satisfaction. My judgments were fair. Every score I gave could be justified (at least by me!).

But here’s the crazy thing-

I didn’t give my favorite story the highest score.

Why? Because technically, it wasn’t the best. The highest scoring story flowed better. The sample was flawless. There were no mistakes, no awkward phrasing, and no grammatical errors (that I picked up on). It was simply  well written.

However, something about the second ranking sample spoke to me. The characters grabbed me, and the story drew me in. I wanted to read it.

What’s really puzzling is if I were to summarize the story lines, the highest ranking book had a better plot. More happened. It moved at a quick pace. But there was something about the second place book I loved. I don’t know what it was. I can’t explain it. It simply connected with me.

As I ponder this experience  I’m blasted with an understanding I thought I previously grasped, but obviously didn’t.

The love of a book is subjective.859697

My judging experience opened
my eyes to a new side of things. I’ll probably need to reread this post in the future to remind myself, but I finally understand. If  I were an agent, I wouldn’t have requested a full for an arguably well written book, simply because it didn’t speak to me.

This taught me how important it is to find people who connect with your work.  If my writing is good, and I constantly strive to improve my craft, eventually I will find the right people to help me get my book out there. A big part of success is commitment.

At least, that’s what I tell myself. jessica grace kelleyt signature

Until then, I’ll keep writing

 

 

 

Book Review! Gambit by C.L Denault

 

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I am back from my hiatus!

I’m not going to lie, it was nice to have a month that was book free. The last few books I  read were a bit of a letdown, and I was overwhelmed with work for my personal projects.It was nice to focus on my own work. I began to miss reading after a week or so, but I was leery because of the rough, weak story lines I had read before my NovelVaca ( ooh, look, a new word!). Luckily, the first book I read, Gambit by C.L Denault, immediately hooked me on books again.

It was that good.

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The premise is classic Dystopian, one of my favorite genres. There were a few new ingredients in this Dystopian universe, which included cat/children “rippers”, AKA feline killing machines, and physically enhanced soldiers.

Okay, that last part is not a new concept, but it was very well done.

The world is a mix of old charm and futuristic fantasy, which goes together much better than you would expect. Think bacon plus chocolate- Great separate, decadent together. The world building is solid, not overdone, and not slapped in front of you with a word paint brush in a single paragraph ( this is called info dumping, I detest it!) . The prose was beautiful. C.L Denault is a talented storyteller and writer, and the possession of those two talents is harder to find in an Author than people might believe.

However, all the things above are not the reason I loved this book. Yes, the world is interesting. Yes, there are unique factors. But the characters stole my heart. Willow, Reece and the supporting cast were exceptional.

Willow is a 16 year old girl who grew up in a poor, yet happy family.  She acts like a teenager, which is great, because that’s exactly what she is. Her life wouldn’t support an overly mature attitude, so I appreciated the realistic take on her. Despite her immaturity, she is a strong, promising character that I am sure will encompass her potential by the time this series is complete.

But she wasn’t the star of the show.

My favorite character  is Commander Reece- a terrifying, harsh, amazingly enigmatic man who any girl would fall head over heals for, despite his streak of danger (let’s be honest, it makes him better!). He’s the first male character I’ve fallen for in ages. It was  wonderful to feel that way about a book again!

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I also enjoyed the supporting characters, Asp, Tem, Morry, all of them! They had their own unique personalities, which is so refreshing. Many books have filler characters that are just there, saying lines. Not these guys! They were dimensional and alive.

There were a few times I looked up from the pages with an “eh” attitude, but now that I’ve finished the book I can’t remember why I felt that way. The positives completely overtook those few moments, and I will be waiting for the next book with anxious impatience.

So, I am going to give this book 5 stars.

That’s right. I said it. FIVE STARS!!!!!!!

I am not saying this book is perfection, or a great piece of artistic mastery that will be studied for ages, but I truly, completely enjoyed this story. To me, it was awesome, and I might even read it again.

WHICH I NEVER DO!

This book will be bought by me in hard copy, and go on my favorites shelf, right next to the Shatter me Series, The Selection series, The Razorland series ( and Emily Grifin’s novels, and The Giver, and Rebecca … you get the idea). To put that in perspective for you guys, I haven’t bought a hard copy since 2014 .

Yeah.

And if C.L Denault could autograph it, that would be amazing…(I can dream!)

If you like romance, Dystopian, or just fantasy in general, grab your copy of Gambit here!

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*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

 

 

 

Coming Soon, I swear!

This is a quick update for authors and readers currently waiting for certain titles to be reviewed. They are coming, don’t worry! my reading speed isn’t as fast as normal because life is being needy right now.

Sometimes life can be so rude.

rude

I have a few writing projects which need to take precedence over my book reviews. I love reviewing all the fantastic novels I read, but it is a hobby. Writing is my true passion. Passion is where my heart lies, so I need to put some extra hours into my work for the next week or so.

I’ll be back soon, though! These great titles are coming up and I can’t wait to share my thoughts with you!

The V Girl by Mya Roberts

Gambit by C.L Denault

Rhuna by Barbara Underwood

The Guardian, a Sword, & Stilettos by Kristen D. Van Rissegham

Amid Wind & Stone by Nicole Luiken

I am excited about this round, lot’s of fantasy and feelings. It’s going to be fun!

 

 

My journey to becoming a Published Author

 

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A year and a half ago I was sitting on my couch with my best friend  (AKA husband) passionately displaying my dissatisfaction about a book series I just finished reading.  The ending was, in my opinion, poorly executed and didn’t give the characters justice.

“I could write a better ending than that!” I proclaimed, tossing my wine glass up to the sky.

“Then do it,” Ryan replied.

I laughed at the suggestion and we playfully brainstormed book ideas, most of which were horrible. One stuck with me though, and this character wouldn’t quiet. I opened my laptop at 2 am and wrote this strange, dark character’s story, entitled The Cleanser. It was the first chapter of what would become my debut novel, The Mercy Killers.

I can honestly say I had no idea what a life changing night that was for me.

I wrote like a madwoman for 5 months, then my husband came home from deployment and I put the half finished manuscript away. I wasn’t sure what  I was doing, was this only for fun? Was this something I wanted to pursue?  I wasn’t under any delusions of what being an author truly means.  There is always a chance an author can make it “big” but being an author more than likely means pouring your soul into a manuscript which may never see the light of day, and if it does it can take years of crawling through the trenches to get it picked up. I have two small children and a husband who is often absent because of his job. I wasn’t sure I wanted to commit to something that draining for the possibility of no pay off.

But the story wouldn’t go away.images (1)

It was always in my head, building, creating this giant world, and as time passed I realized I needed to write this. Even if nothing came of it I wanted to write it because it brought me joy. So I pulled out the book and finished it.

 

When I typed that last sentence,  it became clear writing was my passion. In some ways it always had been.  I have stacks of journals and songs to prove it.  But this book was somehow different. This made me excited and brought me peace (you can read more about my reaction to my finished manuscript here.)

I didn’t know what to do next, so I blindly entered contests because  I was told they could provide valuable feedback. I entered a few and received some excellent advice.  I learned how to hone my skills, and I completed my edits using the lessons  I gleaned from the contests. I placed  well in them, which helped my confidence.

So now I possessed a completed manuscript! What next? I knew I needed a Query letter, so I signed up for a Query Class. I also tried my hand at a pitch contest, #Pitchmas (read about my experience here, it was eye opening.) The pitch contest went well. I ended up with quite a bit of interest.

That was a shock.

I prepared myself for the trenches.  I was ready for tons of rejections and piles of agent queries that went nowhere. I ended up with solid choices. I did receive a few rejections, but even the rejections didn’t have the horrible bluntness I heard about. Most were incredibly positive.

“Sorry,  I can’t take YA. Could this story be for an adult audience?” ( No, it is NA/YA) .

“I love the first chapter, if the majority of the narrative is from that POV I am interested” (It wasn’t, so we didn’t pursue a relationship.)

“Love your voice! Do you have anything set in the current time period? I am looking for Urban fantasy.” ( I have a voice!?!?!)

I was shocked.

I was overwhelmed.

This was not what I expected.

I did my research, read through my options, and took the advice I was kindly given by the experts who  offered it. I settled on an offer that seemed clean to me. I sent it to my lawyer, who promptly agreed the contract was clean, didn’t have hidden clauses and the royalty agreement was fair.

However, this contract was through a small start up publisher which hadn’t even released a book yet. Signing with a new company was a risk, so I didn’t sign right away.

Instead, I did more research. I spoke to the owner, who was  honest and helpful. I read success stories and stories of failure, some through small pubs and some through the big five. I sat down and tried to figure out what I wanted.  I researched pros and cons of the big five versus a small pub and I seriously considered signing with the new publisher. After all, contracts are hard to get, and  getting looked at by the big five or an established independent publisher can be tough. It wasn’t like a big agent was going to randomly knock on my door!

I entered a contest called the YA! 2015 Authors.me competition on a whim. I had no idea how much exposure I would receive, nor did  I have a real grasp on who would be reading it.  I did well, in fact I won the whole shebang ( WHAT!?!?!) and a few weeks later I had two different individuals within the literary community approach me with some great advice and interesting proposals.

It was a little overwhelming.

The small publishing house contract was still on my desk, carefully arranged and protected in an envelope, postmarked and addressed.  It was ready to go, but I hadn’t been able to actually sign it. I don’t know why. I had every intention. But every time I picked up the pen this quiet voice would whisper, “Not yet.” I was certain the voice was insane, because book deals are hard to come by and I was lucky to have a publisher who was as devoted to what I wanted as this company was.

You see, I’ve never been a very brave person. I’ve always taken the safest, surest route. This small publisher was safe, and I liked who ran it. I liked the authors. I liked everyone. But all of the feedback from different sources was forcing me to look at what I really wanted out of writing as a career, and my goals became clear.

I wanted to be a hybrid author. I wanted to try to shoot for the stars even when the deck is stacked against me. If I failed, fine, but at least I tried. So, I did a very terrifying thing.

I walked away from a sure thing. images

Was that the best decision for me?

Only time will tell, and probably quite a bit of time. The publishing industry tends to move slow.  I will likely experience some rough moments. I may end up with a small publisher, after all many of them are very good at selling a certain genre. If we are a good fit I will be over the moon. Now, I understand what I am looking for.

Was I scared?

Absolutely. I still feel a little sick thinking about it. It was a hard decision for me to come to, and it hurt because I had come to genuinely care about the people who ran the small publishing company. I was also working on a second book which was perfect for them and needed the type of platform they could provide. Severing our relationship didn’t just mean pulling The Mercy Killers, but it also meant pulling a chance for The Seductress too.

Still, I walked away.

My big, terrifying journey starts here. A journey I could have finished already, and maybe  I should have. I know I’ll  likely receive rejections before I find what I am looking for. But I think intuition is important, and a famous quote echoes in my head whenever I start to doubt myself.

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Gone with the Wind is one of my favorite books. It was rejected 38 times.

Stephanie Meyer struggled to get an agent, she was snubbed 18 times, and then went on to get rejected by over a dozen publishers.

The Help got rejected 61 times. Stephen King had a spike of rejections on his wall.  Meg Cabot had an entire bag full of them.

I don’t know if I will ever be as great as the people  I’ve mentioned. I understand it’s not likely. I do have passion. They obviously have talent, and mine remains to be seen. I think it’s there, I just need to hone it.

If I receive 300 rejections? I’ll submit 301 times.

Until then, I’ll keep writing.