New short story being published!

I just found out that SHARE (https://shareblog.press/), a new publication that publishes one story a month, will be publishing a short story of mine, Twenty-four! The publication explores “personal stories of adversity, hardships, achievements and growth.” While 24 is not a direct biography of my life, it explores issues that I am passionate about, like mental health advocacy, supporting others with mental health issues, mental illness making children have to become caretakers, issues with society’s dialogue around beauty, and more.

The story is one I wrote for a fiction workshop, more-or-less a satire about the fashion industry told by a model struggling to support herself and her ex-model mother suffering from depression.

 

Also, some update on other stories!

The tentative publication of my YA novel, Starvation, is November 2020 — stay tuned for more information. I’ll be posting a cover reveal, bonuses for signing up for the pre-order, calls for ARC (advanced reader copy) reviewers, and more!

Also, the short story anthology I have a story in, Running Wild Press Anthology, Paper Girl about a girl in an in-patient eating disorder treatment center, is wrapping up edits and should be out Spring/Summer 2020!

 

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Review of The Liar’s Daughter

The Liar's Daughter

The Liar’s Daughter by Megan Cooley Peterson

I got this book in hardcover off of Amazon, since it came out recently. I’ve never picked a book because I loved the author on Twitter (she also happened to be in Minnesota, so of course she and her book were amazing).

And… I’m so glad I did. Wow. 5/5 stars. 

I loved the past and present chapters (hmm sounds like a book out next summer… by me…) and the psychology of the cult and its members (also that these things were not explicitly stated but implied). I was also impressed by the accuracy of the psychotherapy– the therapist in the book did textbook CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy).

The descriptions were lovely. The characters were unique and vivid. The tension was *high*. I read the whole book in one sitting, in about 2 hours. So yeah, it was that good.

All the motivations and emotions were believable. There was enough revealed about what was going on that I was intrigued rather than frustrated. I did think, for a while, that things would never get better (which is why I kept reading) but the way the ending was handled was perfect. Even the inclusion of words like “groovy” to show how out-of-touch Piper was with other kids worked great– and worked a lot better than the author telling us.

The author mentioned that she was in a doomsday church/cult when she was younger and this translates to a realistic depiction of the Father’s rhetoric and the followers’ response. You not only see how much control they have over the followers, but also why the followers trust the leaders. You understand why someone would believe them. I was glad this stayed less gory than I was anticipating, especially with the intense (but very apt) cover.

I was most intrigued by the themes of this book, namely how do we determine what is real and not. How to trust memory when it is fallible. Knowing who to trust and why. Reconciling after being lied to. The idea of what makes family.

I think this is one of the best depictions of a character you don’t quite like, but have sympathy for. I didn’t like a lot of Piper’s actions, but I felt sorry for her and understood why she was thinking the way she was. I liked how she interacted with the kids and the older boys– you could tell she was caring and maternal and wanted the best for them.

There’s also a romance sub-plot which was great, especially because it was a sub-plot and didn’t become the Most Important Thing like in other stories. Nor did it take away Piper’s autonomy.

All-in-all, this was an amazing YA contemporary novel with lots of tension and the right touches of mystery, romance, and psychology.

 

If this sounds intriguing to you, support Megan and buy her book on Amazon here

Subscribe to my blog on the right to get notified of new reviews, writing advice, and more. Contact me if you would like your work to be reviewed.

Review of Opposite of Always

Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds

The Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds

3/5 Stars

I’ve been waiting for this book to come out for a while. I was really looking forward to reading it, not only because of the refreshing diversity and the cover, but also because of the premise.

I almost quit a couple times but kept going hoping it would get better. Taste is subjective and I’m sure there are lots of people who would love this book, but I am not one of them.

*The cons* The dialogue felt stilted. There was so much that was cliche about this — dying girl. Time travel. Boy in love with the best friend who’s in a relationship. Boy who is “average at everything” (and best friend who is the best at everything). Prom being the pinnacle of importance. I like a good cliche every once-in-a-while, but not so many together. The writing style wasn’t my favorite– I would have liked more implied (ie seeing feelings by how things were described) and less internal dialogue/ less “saying” what was already implied. I liked J, but liked him less as he talked more and was obnoxiously unaware of certain things.

There is *no* reason Kate couldn’t have told him what was wrong with her while he was at the hospital. Except for plot. This took me out of the story and made me put down the book. Also I had a hard time believing the time travel was triggered the way it was — like really? Of all the potential ways?

*The pros* I thought there was some great imagery and characterization– each character was vivid and unique. I liked the idea of this premise and the theme. I loved that the majority of the cast was POC and explored important issues like incarceration, divorce, death, love, etc.

What an agent won’t tell you about publication

After 4 years of undergrad, I was surprised that we finally had an event on campus about book publishing. Although I know quite a bit about the industry, I thought I’d go, just in case.

The person speaking, was an agent/editor (for those who don’t know, an agent helps pitch your book to publishers, polish it before pitching, and helps you through publishing and contract negotiations. Meanwhile an editor is within the publishing house and edits your book before it comes out, often much more in-depth and over various stages).

Given her success, this agent/publisher has to be fairly good at her job. However, there were a few things mentioned that I wish were addressed differently. Her comments are in bold, paraphrased. My response is below.

  1. Once you send your book to agents, they will call you up and fight to represent it. Maybe this happens for some people, but no one in the writing community, that I know, has had this happen. For one, it takes on average around 100 queries to find an agent, if you find one at all. Secondly, because agents are receiving so many manuscripts, they have to really, really love it (enough to bet a lot of time and money on it) so even if it’s perfect from a craft perspective, the odds that multiple people like it that much is low.
  2. Once you have an agent, the publishing houses will fight to represent it, offering you lots of money and competing to acquire it. Similar principle as above. The reality is the publishing industry really relies on a few “star” authors to bring in the money and fund their ability to take chances on other books. They receive a lot of pitches and have to like it enough to again, bet a lot of time and money. At this stage, the market can play a large role so you might have written the best book that they love, but if it won’t sell, they won’t buy it.
  3. Don’t worry at all about platform. True, there’s less of a push than before to grow your platform (in part because its not clear that having more followers = more sales) but especially when you as the author are doing a lot of the book marketing, you need to at least know a few people in the industry, from bloggers to other authors, who can help get the word out. Quality over quantity here because 1000 followers who don’t engage with you is worse than 10 who you actively interact with. The idea is to make people want to spend time to read *your* book over other things– so promote other writers, interact with them, basically do what you would want them to do for you.
  4. Shell out $20/month+ for publishers weekly to look up agents who did sales on similar books. Okay, so could this be helpful? Sure. What’s wrong with it? For one, you are going to be querying over a long time, so unless you buy it for one month and take great notes so you can use it in the future, you’d need it over many, many months. Secondly, given that many writers don’t need more costs than they already have, why not do the same thing but for free? MS Wishlist (#mswishlist on twitter or this website) lists what agents are looking for, Writer’s digest posts a lot about agents looking for submissions (ie here), and a lot of agents you can find (*gasp*) by googling literary agent + your genre.
  5. You need an agent. And traditional publishing > anything else. Now you do need an agent if you want to publish with the big publishing houses since many won’t accept submissions unless you do. BUT you can still publish with a smaller press or do hybrid or indie publishing. Of course there are pros and cons to each and you shouldn’t indie publish just because you never found an agent, but for some people indie is better than traditional, and vice versa.
  6. If you want to be in publishing you need to be in New York. If you want to be in the big 5, this is likely true since they’re located in New York. However, there are publishing hubs in other cities (Philly, LA, San Francisco) and regional publishers all over that you can start (or have your whole career) in. There are also many roles (ie freelance editor, etc) that you can do from anywhere.

All in all, while an agent can be a great resource, they have one perspective. Just as one author might taut indie publishing as the best and another traditional, they can be right for some and wrong for others. There are always different ways to do things, especially in book publishing.

 

Publishing Contracts

I just got my contract from Immortal works for my YA novel, Starvation, and thought I’d share what I’ve learned in the process. (Side note: if you want to get publishing updates and/or more information on books and publishing, subscribe in the sidebar on the right.)

If you have an agent, they will (hopefully) understand a lot about a contract. That doesn’t mean you should just sign what they send you, though. A publishing contract is a legally binding document. If you don’t have an agent, please, please, please spend the money to have a lawyer look it over—it could be well worth what you’d save later-on if you have to take legal action or are stripped of rights/royalties/etc that you were expecting. Even if you have an agent, strongly consider talking to a lawyer.

Most (good) lawyers are going to be around $500/hr. The contract, depending on the length, will probably take 1-2 hours for them to go through, especially if you have certain things you are looking for (ie you don’t want to give up rights to making cassette tapes). It will cost even more if you ask them to negotiate directly with the publisher.

I hired one lawyer to do line edits and look things over thoroughly, which took almost 2 hours (the contract was actually very good and very fair, most of it was small wording changes and things I wanted to negotiate). Another graciously talked to me on the phone for a few minutes after skimming it; he didn’t charge me for the call. I will be working with another, recommended by a friend, if the contract comes and needs negotiation. I highly recommend both and you can find them here:

Robert Stein

David Wolf

Lindsay Arthur (Retired)

 

What’s in a contract?

  1. Definition of the work. Make sure this is specific and accurate.
  2. Royalties, how they will be determined, and how they will be paid
  3. Rights, including to other media, international right, etc
  4. Sequels and right to first offer (basically you have to first pitch to them and they can give you and offer before you pitch elsewhere)
  5. Deadlines, both for you and the publisher
  6. Copyrights, marketing, and other roles and/or costs

 

What should I look out for?

  1. Wording like, including but not limited to that isn’t specific
  2. Can you keep to the deadlines they gave you? Make sure you can, planning for how the schedule will fall with other events like holidays
  3. Look out for clauses that allow the publisher to publish “with or without the author’s permission” in terms of chosen titles, edits, etc.
  4. What is each party expected to do? For traditional publishing, the publishing house should pay for editing, cover design, etc. If not, run. For smaller publishing houses (and frankly all) you will be expected to do a lot of the marketing

 

Other things I learned

  1. Most publishers take care of copyright, but if yours puts that on you, as the author, its not expensive or hard. It’s probably worth negotiating other points instead. Just make sure you remember to do it.
  2. Make sure there’s a clause with sequels that, while you may pitch to them, you are under no obligation to accept any offer. Also make sure it doesn’t say the contract has to be the same—if your first book was successful you want to be able to ask for more.
  3. Unless stated in the contract, the publisher is not required to try to schedule signings/events. Most, however, are willing to schedule at least one, so ask about this. If they agree, put it in writing (but again, be careful of the language that you can cancel if you are sick, etc)
  4. Publishers are not allowed to publish anything to email lists provided by authors, they must be sent out by the author themselves (thanks to the CAM-SPAM act). The publisher, however, may ask to be informed before such emails are sent out.

 

Want to learn more?

Sidebar Saturdays

Balance Careers

Novel and Short Story to be Published!

A short story of mine, Paper Girl, is going to be published in this year’s Running Wild Press short story anthology. Originally written for a creative writing class of mine, I recently went back and edited it before submitting it this week. A day later, especially fast given the normal pace of the publication industry, I received word that it is being published! I will send out a post when it is released.

The story is about a girl with an eating disorder, stemming from my studies of clinical psychology. I am receiving money for the work, but I am donating the proceeds to Melrose Center, an eating disorder treatment program that also does research, education, and more. If you would like to donate as well, you can do so here.

 

Today has been a crazy day because I also found out my novel, STARVATION, also about eating disorders (but in a young male wrestler), will be published by Immortal Works!

I am planning on donating a portion of the profits to the Melrose Center as well.

 

Keep up to date as I learn more about publication dates, giveaways, and more by subscribing to my blog (on the side bar).

What Writers Should Know About Mental Health

The intersection between art (especially writing) and mental health has been observed for a long time– be it writers like Woolf and Hemingway and Plath that suffered from mental illnesses to the portrayal of such maladies in stories such as Hamlet, Speak, Looking for Alaska, and many more.

Journaling can be an effective tool for gaining or maintaining mental health (for example, see this post at NAMI) but it can also cause negative side effects such as leading to too much thinking or obsession with thoughts (as shown here at Psychology Today).

So what’s important to know about mental health or mental illness as a writer?

For writing about mental illness:

  1. Part of the reason there is so much stigma around mental illness is because the average person doesn’t know a lot about it. Limit jargon. Talk to people who have had the illness. Do your research. Go into it assuming you know nothing.
  2. Language is important. Use person-centered phrases (ie a person with depression rather than a depressed person). Stick to phrases such as “died by suicide” rather than “committed suicide” to prevent connotations of sin or illegality. Stay away from words like psycho, schizo, crazy. 
  3. Don’t use diagnosis for non-person objects/situations.  The only “thing” that is bipolar is the mood of a person with bipolar depression. You aren’t OCD with cleaning unless you are scrubbing your hands until you bleed or are cleaning so much it is detrimental to your well being (yes this is criteria for diagnosis).
  4. Past diagnosis aren’t current diagnosis. Being transgender or gay is not a mental illness anymore. Neither is female hysteria (basically being a woman with an opinion or emotion). Read the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) for what currently is classified and what someone needs in order to get a diagnosis.
  5. Add content warnings and prevent details of events such as suicide. Content warnings are especially important for people who are triggered by certain material to prepare for, or avoid, such stimuli. This prevents panic attacks, flashbacks, and more. Including details about suicide (especially on the news) has been linked to increased rates of suicide.
  6. Mental illness is not a characterization or plot. Give your characters more than just a mental illness– just as people are not defined by them, characters shouldn’t be either. And although it is a tough thing to struggle with, your character should want something more than “getting better”. Rape/PTSD/etc should not be included just for a plot twist or tension.
  7. Representation of relationships is especially important around these subjects. Characters should not be “cured” by simply finding “the one”. Illnesses of any kind should not be romanticized, nor should unhealthy relationships. Recovery should not be promised, but sad endings should not be the norm either.

For all writers:

I loved this article by the Writing Cooperative about mental health risks in writers.

  1. You face a lot of rejection, solitary time, goals that feel unreachable, and an art that could allow for an infinite number of drafts. Overthinking and judgement are key to good art, but also key ingredients to negative thought patterns. Of course, not all writers have mental health issues, but it’s important to realize there is a correlation. The article above goes into the difference between alone and being depressed. If you feel on edge all the time or have trouble sleeping, you could have anxiety. If you’re even considering getting help, reach out to a primary care provider or find a therapist to get an assessment.
  2. Writing should be fun. If it’s not, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong but take a step back and look at why it no longer is. What can you change to get back the spark? Take a break? Write something else?
  3. Try to build community and support systems where possible. Just because you write alone doesn’t mean you can’t have support. Start or join a writing group to get together with people. This can allow you to write or exchange pieces for advice. Get beta readers for feedback and encouragement. Share your writing with friends and family and tell them about your goals for accountability.
  4. Have realistic goals and manage your expectations. You are no less of a writer if you only write 1 day a month or if you don’t ever publish.

 

Anything I missed? Comment below!

Looking to help grow your writing community? Contact me to post a guest blog here and share this on social media!

The Hating Game Review

I hadn’t had much time to read while abroad in Spain, so after settling in back in the US I bought The Hating Game by Sally Thorne since it had been on my TBR (to be read) pile for a while. (Also it’s going to be a movie soon! Yay for the trend of adapting lots of fiction recently, from To All The Boys I Loved Before to Me Before You and more).

All in all, I think I have a new favorite book. 5/5. 6/5. 10/5. I have never read a book and loved it so much that as soon as I reached the end I immediately went to the beginning and read it again. It’s that good.

Needless to say I’m very excited for the movie. Although I doubt it will be as good, the movie will be amazing if only partially as good as the book. Lucy Hale is cast as Lucy Hutton and Robbie Amell is cast as Joshua Templeton. Find out more here.

What’s it about?

Debut author Sally Thorne bursts on the scene with a hilarious and sexy workplace comedy all about that thin, fine line between hate and love.

Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.

                       2) A person’s undoing

                       3) Joshua Templeman

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

What’s so great about it?

The characters and characterization are amazing. Each is three dimensional with a clear, and satisfying arc. The reader cares about them and what happens to them, but more than that, they’re just fun to spend time with. The dialogue is witty and realistic with a perfect blend of body language and words. Along that line, this book is just funny.

Any cliches that could have come up– workplace tension and romance, the under appreciated employee, family drama– was impressively unique enough to feel fresh but without being unbelievably crazy.

The subplots and plots are woven together beautifully into one story, fluctuating in tension enough to keep the reader engaged but satisfied.

Some of the typical cliches in romance were turned on their head, which I appreciated greatly. While I can’t say more without giving spoilers, the gender roles in terms of relationships were flipped in some satisfying ways.

All in all, in terms of romance novels, this portrayed a relatively healthy, realistic relationship. Something more books should do, especially if they are written as beautifully as this one.

What I didn’t like

I had to think about this a lot to come up with something. The one thing that I didn’t love was that occasionally the male romance figure (I won’t say who it is…) was borderline on consent. Not for anything serious but in terms of her trying to pull away or leave the room. This was portrayed as romantic, but came off not okay.

Where you can buy it

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Tips for Bringing Real Experiences Into Your Writing

Guest post by Patrick Bailey (http://patrickbaileys.com/). “I am a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. I attempt to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.”

 

Authors have always brought powerful storytelling to life using their own lived experiences. Whether creating nonfiction works to document their lives, or bringing aspects of their world into fiction works, real life events are vibrant sources of inspiration. If you are an author with a real experience that is pulling you towards writing a great story, let yourself connect to that place and share it with the world. There are some challenges with any written work derived from real life, such as writing emotions in ways other people can relate to, or being sensitive to painful topics your readers will be influenced by. Follow these easy tips to help you tell your story and bring your real world experiences into a story that matters.

 

Focus on the Emotions

Writing about your experiences can be done in a way that impacts your readers’ emotions without needing them to have experienced the event themselves. Doing this is most effective by focusing on the emotions behind the story you are trying to tell. Are you writing about a difficult challenge you overcame? Readers can be inspired by your perseverance and underlying motivation to succeed. Are you writing a fiction story based on real life heartbreak? Your readers can relate to their own stories of sadness or love, if you can connect with them on that level. Prizes and accolades are always given to the authors who can truly capture the human condition, so write honestly and descriptively to bond with your readers on an emotional level.

 

Be Sensitive

Sensitivity and respect for your readers is a trait all successful authors master over time. Of course, you have the creative agency to describe any story and situation in your own way, but there is an art to writing about sensitive topics if they are inspired by real world experiences. Authors with powerful stories can have a long-lasting impact on cultural views and stigmas, so be intentional with what you’d like your readers to take away from your story. For example, if you are writing about real experiences with death, be intentional about how your readers will leave viewing mortality or their loved ones passing. If your characters have habits such as drinking alcohol or breaking the law, consider young readers who are impressionable. This is not to prevent you from writing on your own terms, but the way you portray events and behaviors can be influential if done right.

 

Consult with Others

A powerful method to bring depth and inspiration to stories about real events is to consult with other people in your life. Not only does this add value to potential character dialogue and actions, but your story can be strengthened by real opinions and perspectives. For example, if you are writing about your inspiring journey towards health and wellness, consult with your health coach or nutritionist to understand how they perceived your progress from the outside. If you are writing about a heartbreak you’ve experienced, ask your therapist for ways to articulate the feelings you have felt but cannot describe. These outside perspectives can bring depth and description to your own retelling of your life stories.

Bringing your own life experiences into written work can ensure your stories are authentic and relatable. Readers are inspired and respond well to other human experiences, especially if these stories are told with vulnerability and real emotions. Do your own stories justice by taking a step back and understanding the emotions behind your journeys, remaining sensitive to topics that can impact your readers, and consulting with others when you need an objective point of view. By following these easy steps, you can create engaging written works inspired by your own life story.

 

 

 

 

Note from Molly: 

Thank you Patrick! For me, it can be hard to use these great tips while maintaining an active voice. If that’s true for you, check out these links below.

For writing emotion

Showing not telling

Another example of showing, not telling

Also, as a YA author and young adult, I agree that it’s important to be sensitive about what/how you write about topics. I want to emphasize that this does not mean to stay away from topics “just because it’s YA”. Things happen to teens, teens do things they shouldn’t, and teens are affected by real issues. Be sensitive and try to send the right message (ie don’t encourage unhealthy relationships, etc) but don’t assume teens are naive/dumb/inexperienced with these issues.

If you want to write a guest post, like this, contact me!

 

BookTubes

booktube.jpg

Hi everyone! Hola a todos. For those who don’t know and/or haven’t been following the travel side of my blog, MollyinSpain, I’ve been studying in Spain and traveling in Europe but I’m back with a post on BookTubes!

 

What are BookTubes? Why watch them?

Simply put, BookTubes are youtube channels by authors, for authors, and/or about books.

I first started watching them to learn more about writing and publishing. Ultimately, most of what I needed to know to self-publish I learned from various channels including KIM CHANCE for writing and publishing and TEXAN IN TOKYO for using Amazon Createspace. TEDx also has some great videos about writing and motivation.

It’s a great way to keep motivated, especially after subscribing and getting notifications of new videos, as well as learning about ways to work around areas your struggling with (writers block or characterization or whatever it is). It also makes the more solitary act of writing into something that feels more communal by hearing the struggles of other writers (speaking of, check out my post on finding beta readers.)

 

Why start one yourself?

Again, its a great way to build community., like blogging, but also can be great marketing. (But it’s not worth doing for the marketing if you aren’t passionate about it and/or have a lot of other platforms you’re juggling). It’s great if you like to talk more than write or want to be more visual.

Like with blogging it will take a while to grow a platform, if at all, so don’t do it only for that. Things that can help include– mentioning your channel on other social media, hosting guests or guest appearing on other’s blogs, asking people to subscribe/like during your posts, etc.

 

Where should I start?

A while back I posted on Twitter asking for people who do BookTubes and what channels they like to watch. And I found some really great sites I hadn’t found before.

My favorite, and go-to, Kim Chance. Kim is a published YA writer who is upbeat and encouraging while remaining real. Her videos cover almost everything a writer needs to know.

HopefullHappenings A wide range of videos, like Kim Chance, about the writing process, publishing, marketing, etc. Bonus: they’re relatively short but informational.

Mandi Lynn focuses on publishing, including everything a self-published author needs to know but also covers other important writing topics.

Francina Simone YA writer who tackles the more intangible issues of writing and especially reading like diversity, book reviews (what works and what doesn’t).

Just start searching.

 

Looking to learn more about other social media for writers? Check out my A Teen Writer’s Guide to Social Media.

And if you liked this post, please share it on such platforms and subscribe to my blog 🙂