Thursday, December 31, 2015

Joanna's Non-Scientifically-Assigned 2015 Book Awards!

I read a lot of awesome books this year! Here are some of my favorites I feel deserve awards!!

The Lunar Chronicles, by Marissa Meyer
I binge-read the first three this spring, read Fairest in October and Winter when it released in November. I can't say enough wonderful things about this series! Inter-connected fairy-tales that are equal parts romantic, adventure, and Star Wars-esque.

The Winner's Crime, by Marie Rutkoski
This book DESTROYED me. But in a good way. But still: THE EMOTIONAL PAIN. Epic, epic series. SO READY for The Winner's Kiss to find out if there's any possibility for a happy ending (Ackkk I hope so!!) ………


The Orphan Queen, by Jodi Meadows
I had so much fun with this one (except for the cruel cliffhanger ending, mind you!). It felt like a cross between two of my childhood favorites (Jackaroo and Crown Duel). Who doesn't love a masked vigilante and a queen in disguise and an EXTREMELY interesting magic system? Can't wait for The Mirror King!


Uprooted, by Naomi Novak
Powerful and hypnotic. I literally couldn't put it down. Pretty sure actual magic is woven into the pages…

BEST ADULT FANTASY NOVEL (I'm totally allowed to pick two, all right?? This is my awards show post!!):

A Darker Shade of Magic, by Victoria Schwab
I loved this book so much!!! I read Vicious this year too (and it blew my mind!!), but Darker Shade edges it out (barely). Multiple Londons! World-hopping! Magic! Blood! Gorgeous, GORGEOUS book.


An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir

The Wrath and the Dawn, by Renee Ahdieh 
Both gorgeous and gripping in their own way. Beautifully, beautifully written. 


Cruel Beauty, by Rosamund Hodge
(I realize this wasn't published in 2015, but I read it this year so it still counts!!)

Monday, December 28, 2015

At the Close of the Year…

It's time yet again to see how I did on my to-do list for 2015:
Revise/rewrite/edit/polish the novel I finished drafting in December. Infuse with more heart, and MAKE THE MIDDLE BETTER!! 
Write a brand new book—because all revising and no first-drafting makes Joanna a dull girl! 
Read outside of my normal genre preferences—like a thriller or a mystery or something nonfiction. 
Bake more stuff—I've realized I really like baking!! 
Get an electric hand-mixer—Related to above. Whipping butter by hand is SO HARD YOU GUYS. 
Some kind of bookcase project—I have some outdated bookcases that I think would be really fun to update/paint/shabby-chicify or something. 
Never, ever, EVER give up! I don't post a lot about querying, as giving too much detail on that front can be unprofessional, but suffice it to say, this is my motto! 
 And here's how I did:
First up, I got halfway through a rewrite of last year's novel, and I do intend to finish it when I have the time! 
I starrrrted a brand new book for NaNoWriMo but it wasn't to be. Ah, well! 
Does reading four adult fantasy novels count as reading outside my normal genre preference? Haha maybe not, but it's been a loooooooong while since I adventured into the adult section, so I'm gonna give myself half-credit for that. 
I learned how to make homemade honey wheat dinner rolls! Does that count as baking more? 
I still don't have a hand-mixer… whoops!!
No bookcase project done either, unless you count clearing off the top of the office bookshelf to serve as my overflow shelf… I think I deserve 25% credit for that one. 
But BY FAR the most wonderful amazing accomplishment this year………… I didn't give up on querying and SIGNED WITH MY AGENT IN APRIL!!! I'm still so delighted/amazed/thankful/ecstatic about that!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

2015: The Year In Review!

2015 was pretty awesome. Let's review!!

In March, I took a trip to California, got to meet my baby niece and see San Francisco!

Golden Gate Bridge!
I have the cutest niece ever!

In April, I signed with Sarah Davies of Greenhouse!! (There are not enough exclamation points in the world to properly punctuate this sentence.)

At the end of April, Aaron and I took a trip back east for his niece's wedding, and whilst there visited four states, met my critique partner Jen Fulmer, and hung out with my aunt in Washington D.C.

Me and Jen & a future writer!

Rainstorm in front of the White House!

In July, I flew to Iowa and road-tripped with my sister to Michigan to celebrate my amazing grandmother's 90th birthday!

In October we celebrated mine and Aaron's 3rd wedding anniversary!

Waited in line for 16 hours to see STAR WARS on December 17th!!! (OH THE FEELS)

Can't wait to see what's ahead in 2016!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Once Upon a December…

Wellllll I kind of fell off the blogosphere for a while there. Sorry about that!!

My November disappeared somehow and I'm sorry to report I didn't finish NaNoWriMo this year. I made it to 30K and decided the story wasn't ready to be told… then wrote 7K on a pet project, then got distracted with Thanksgiving and a visit from my BEYOND ADORABLE 10-month-old niece. It just wasn't to be this year, but that's all right! Sometimes books need to percolate a little more, and I think that's definitely the case with this one.

Other than that I've been keeping busy eating (anyone else have THREE Thanksgiving dinners?), sewing (making some cute handmade things for Christmas), reading, and pondering an upcoming revision. Oh and watching Doctor Who. Last week's episode BLEW MY MIND. Just ask my husband. Sooooooooo excited for the finale tomorrow!!!

Anyhoo, hope you all are having a lovely start to your December!!

What I've Been Reading Lately:

WINTER, Marissa Meyer's exceptional conclusion to the Lunar Chronicles. I laughed, I cried, I squeed, I melted into a puddle of feels—the ending was everything it needed to be and more! 

A CURIOUS TALE OF THE IN-BETWEEN, by Lauren DeStefano. A bittersweet, lyrical, haunting, absolutely exquisite story about a girl who can see ghosts. Piercing and so beautiful!

MAGONIA, by Maria Dahvana Headley, which starts out like a John Green novel and turns into this lovely strange hypnotic fantasy about sky ships and bird people. I loved it immensely.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Writing Challenges!

I always like challenging myself writing-wise with each new project.

Previously I've experimented with:

  • Different viewpoints—multiple close third person POVs; Dual POVs
  • A novel written part in past tense and part in present tense
  • A dual POV where half the book was from the viewpoint of a blind character (so interesting to not be able to rely on visual descriptions!)
For this year's NaNoWriMo novel, I'm writing a dual POV in present tense. It's something I haven't done a lot of, and is tricky in itself. But the big challenge is to keep the relationship between my POV characters platonic! I really want to try out a strong guy/girl friendship, but it's a struggle 'cause I'm already shipping them pretty hard. :-D We'll see how it turns out………

Okay. Back to writing. I'm closing in on 11K!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

And We're Off!

Happy November, everyone! I'll be posting brief updates throughout the month regarding my NaNoWriMo progress (you can see my profile HERE), and there's no time like the present to get started. :-)

So. NaNoWriMo Stats Thus Far:

Day: 3
Word Count: 8,589
Currently on Chapter Number: 3
Number of Characters Who Have Died So Far: Surprisingly none!
Number of Characters Who Faced Down a Bear: 2!
Number of Broken Bones: 1
Cups of Tea Drunk Whilst Writing: approximately 10!
Sanity Level: 80%
Sleepiness: 85%
Sneeziness: 60%
Target Runs: 1

Monday, October 26, 2015

NaNoWriMo Draweth Nigh!

Happy Monday, all and sundry!

I can't believe October is on its way out already—where has 2015 gone???

November is rapidly approaching, which means… National Novel Writing Month draweth nigh! I've more-or-less decided that I'm going to take part this year, and if you want, you can friend me on the official site HERE (I'm Gamwyn).

I first found out about NaNoWriMo in the summer of 2005. Forums were closed until the fall, so I challenged myself to finish my very first novel whilst I was waiting! I did, and went on to write another novel that November. I've only missed two NaNos since, and only fallen short of the 50,000 word mark once. It definitely isn't for everybody, but for those who blaze quickly through first drafts, it's just the ticket. I really enjoy the wild creativity that is the mad-dash-first-draft—I'm a write fast, edit slow type person, so NaNo works for me. And I don't always finish the novel during November—last year I hit my 50K, but didn't reach The End until partway through December.

I'm definitely a planner versus a pantser (I wish I could wing it, but I end up writing myself into a hole and abandoning the book whenever I do that), and I've been noodling on the novel I want to write this year for a while. We'll see if I finish my outline by Sunday…

Any other NaNoers out there this year?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Anniversary Aspens

My husband Aaron and I just got back from our anniversary trip last night, and I thought I'd share a few photos with you! We spent time in Prescott and Flagstaff, and got to see aspens in glorious fall color, and it was cold enough to wear SWEATERS. So perfect!

Epic clouds on the way up to Flagstaff!

Me + aspens!

Pictures don't do this justice.

Me 'n Aaron sittin' on a tree. ;-)

On the road up to Snow Bowl

Fall color!

So beautiful!

Going for a walk in the rainy Prescott woods!

We got married in this exact spot three years ago!
I hope you all had a great weekend, and look at that—we're halfway through the week already! Here's to a fantastic rest of October.

Monday, October 12, 2015

ON SHIPS (and not the sailing kind)

The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things, of shoes and SHIPS and…

Okay walrus I'mma let you finish, but… :-D Let's talk SHIPS, people.

Éowyn and Faramir from Tolkien's THE LORD OF THE RINGS
These two are like my original ship. My main heartbreak about the otherwise fabulous Peter Jackson movies is the lack of Éowyn/Faramir. I love them SO MUCH. I was enamored with their story back when I first read LOTR circa the age of thirteen. I love how they're both broken, how they both basically go on suicide missions, how they're both stronger than anyone gives them credit for, how they heal each other, how the most romantic sentence in literature is about them: 
And he took her in his arms and kissed her under the sunlit sky and he cared not that they stood high on the walls in the sight of many. 

Cress and Thorne from Marissa Meyer's THE LUNAR CHRONICLES 
I obviously ADORE Cinder/Kai and Scarlet/Wolf, but something about Cress and Thorne delights me to no end. Maybe it's the fact that of all the heroines in the series, Cress is most like me and I relate to her like whoa. From her distant crush to her wretched hike through the desert to her plucky bravery to her jealousy to her wanting to be kissed before she dies…… OH CRESS I LOVE YOU SO. I love how Thorne admires her smarts and pluckiness and really sees her for the deep beautiful soul that she is. CRESS AND THORNE FOREVVERRRRRR. 

Dorthea and Will Ladislaw from George Eliot's MIDDLEMARCH 
OH. MY. GOSH. Just thinking about these two and a certain epic conversation taking place during a thunderstorm at the end makes me want to drop everything and re-read. *heart-eye-emojis* This is a dense novel that has so many wonderful aspects to it I'm not going to even attempt to sum it up properly. But there is a long slow burn between these two that lasts most of the book but finally culminates into amazingness. Will is possibly one of the most passionate characters I've ever read, and Dorthea's misguided goodness and integrity balances him out in such an interesting way. The book is about more than them, obviously, but they're the living, beating heart of the story.

Polly and Tom from Diana Wynne Jones' FIRE AND HEMLOCK
This book fascinates me. It's hard to explain, but the story draws you in like magic and doesn't let go. The relationship between Polly and Tom really sneaks up on you—it grows as the story grows, and for awhile you don't even know what's really going on. Polly is brave and plucky and smart, and cello-playing Tom is so enigmatic and interesting and kind, and… you really just have to read it. But suffice it to say, I ship these two HARD.

Emma and Mr. Knightley from Jane Austen's EMMA 
Obviously I love Elizabeth/Darcy (I mean really, who doesn't??), but Emma and Knightley hold a very special place in my heart. I first read EMMA when I was about fourteen, and I'd never seen the movie so I didn't know what was up—I had the delightful experience of having Emma's dawning realization about Knightley at the same time as she did. I love their deep friendship, the way they bounce off each other, how they're perfectly flawed. HOW JEALOUS KNIGHTLEY IS OF FRANK. :-D

Shevraeth and Meliara from Sherwood Smith's CROWN DUEL
I first discovered CROWN DUEL/COURT DUEL (originally published as a duology) at the library when I was eleven or twelve, and OMG I shipped these two sooooooooooooooooo hard. I've read it approximately one billion times since then. I love how the latter half feels like a Jane Austen novel, and who doesn't adore exchanging letters with a secret admirer, making wagers on who can ride faster in the rain (THAT WAGER YOU GUYS THAT WAGER), the part at the end where he slowly pulls his gloves off………… I kind of can't handle it. Goodness.

Mal and Alina from Leigh Bardugo's GRISHA trilogy 
I get the Darkling fascination, I do, but I love Mal SO MUCH, you guys. Their friendship, their history together, how much he gives up for her, BASICALLY ALL OF RUIN AND RISING. You guys should have HEARD the noises I was making in the last quarter of that book. I was weeping by the end. I'm sorry, is it raining on my face?
Kestrel and Arin from Marie Rutkoski's WINNER'S CURSE trilogy
I can't handle these two. Her people enslaved his. She kind of buys him at a slave auction. He has ulterior motives. They grow into this tentative friendship. She saves him from a thing. He saves her from a thing. THEY KISS. Role reversal. She has to be loyal to her country. He has to be loyal to his. And then in book two…… augh augh augh augh SO MANY FEEEEEELLLLLLLS. I'm sorry. I can't.

Because he does this thing, and then she DOES THIS AWFUL THING TO HIM. And yet… and somehow… and then… but then… AND THEN……… Please please please just read these books. I beg of you. You'll understand.

Um I think I need to go have a cup of tea. And maybe do some rereading. *nods*

Back to you, walrus.

Friday, October 9, 2015

On Inspiration

I'm pretty sure I've done a variation on this post before, but it's been a while, so I thought I'd do it again:

Where do writers get their ideas?

I can't speak for all the writers out there, but mine come from… everywhere. Sometimes a random conversation can spark a whole book—that's happened to me twice: once chatting with friends over watermelon (it was SO good. I was visiting Georgia in the summertime, and all watermelons after have been compared to that one and found wanting) about cupbearers, and once at a stoplight with my sister when I wondered aloud what would happen if a specific group of people—and ONLY that specific group of people—had the ability to do magic.

Sometimes a frame of a movie causes my brain to go off in a different direction (whole book ideas were sparked by REVENGE OF THE SITH and the first ROCKY, respectively. In fact I'm currently outlining the latter).

Music is CRAZY inspiring to me. Once upon a time in 2006, I was listening to the band KEANE's album UNDER THE IRON SEA, and the atmosphere of the music and the lyrics were hugely inspirational in brainstorming, outlining, and drafting the novel I wrote that year (the novel that, several incarnations and a handful of years later, garnered me my agent this spring). I did most of my summer revising to the soundtrack of the band OF MONSTERS AND MEN's album MY HEAD IS AN ANIMAL.

Reading inspires me. Art and nature inspire me. Sometimes I have no idea why a certain thought or image jumps into my head—they just appear. Often I'll have ideas for characters before the plot, occasionally they'll come intertwined. You just never know.

I have a Moleskine notebook (it's looking rather battered these days) that I jot down my random ideas into. If I don't have it with me, I write them down on my phone. I've recently started a Scrivener Idea File, too, for exploring ideas that aren't quite ready to be their own thing yet. It's fun to flip back through my notebook and see the date I had certain ideas.

So for me, ideas are everywhere. You just have to be paying enough attention to snag one when it comes along.

Monday, October 5, 2015

What I Did This Summer (Revision Edition)

Notebook and laptop and tea—the revision arsenal!
So I know summer has technically been over for quite awhile now, but seeing as it's only juuuuuuuust now starting to cool off here in Mordor the land of eternal fire Arizona, I present to you: What I Did This Summer (Revision Edition).

The revision notebook! Totally worth $12.
In the beginning of April I signed with my amazing agent (who may-or-may-not-be-but-probably-is a wizard), and I spent much of the remaining part of the month brainstorming and wool-gathering and otherwise hen-scratching in a brand new notebook. Once I had a new story structure figured out and had it approved, it was time to embark on The Biggest Rewrite Ever.

I wrote and re-wrote the beginning approximately eight billion times (at least it felt like that many). I experimented writing in first person to connect more with my MC. I finally gained enough forward momentum to write the first fifty pages and send them off to my agent for approval. I got the green light and kept going.

Revision requires
It was so hard and so rewarding at the same time. I got to write brand new scenes that are now some of my favorites of all time. I struggled with structure and pacing, because I'd moved a major midway-point event up towards the beginning. I wrote a lot of panicked emails and texts to my CP, as well as sending her each part of the novel when I finished it.

Everything was slowly beginning to take shape. I was seeing glimmers of magic. Three-quarters of the way through I realized I'd left myself an enormous gift in one of my new early scenes that could massively impact the ending. It was sooooooooo cool, you guys. I mean it would have been more brilliant if I'd actually done it on purpose, but shhhh it'll be our little secret.

I finished the entire draft and sent the rest to my CP. She came back with very insightful notes, and I worked through each one of those. She was super mean and made me re-write my climax…………… whiiiiiich turned out to be a super good idea, because I LOVE LOVE LOVE it now. Totally worth the work. :-)

Hubs and I were up north in Prescott when I was rewriting my climax.
He brought me snacks because he's awesome.
Then I sent the shiny new manuscript off to two fantastic agency sisters, who read and critiqued it for me quite brilliantly. I gathered and digested their notes, and gave my pacing a hard think. I put my novel up on the wall and stared at it for a while, then started rearranging and condensing and FIGURING IT OUT.

Before the manuscript surgery!! Each card represents a scene.
The blue and green and pink are all for one POV (I didn't have enough of just one color). 
During the surgery. Cards over on the left are deleted scenes. 
After everything was rearranged and stitched back together!

I went through the novel again, rewriting scenes, making the rearranged parts work where I'd put them, condensing more, killing someone (I literally did this to solve one of my problems…… 0_o ).

THEN it went to my agent, who hadn't read it since its original queried incarnation.

Just a brief side note here to say that I'm fascinated and pleased that through all this revision, the story itself didn't really change—it just became a better, more honed version of what it was always meant to be. I think that's really cool.

Anyway, after that my agent did a tight line-edit (we won't talk about my embarrassing overuse of certain phrases), I rewrote a couple of small scenes, and it was DONE. Phew!!

Working on Line Edits!
And that's how I kept out of trouble (and mostly out of the hot hot sun!!) all summer. :-)

Monday, September 28, 2015


I can't believe it's almost October! Here's what's on the roster for me:

Thursday I'm going to the Leigh Bardugo author event at Changing Hands in Phoenix, and I'm super excited to get my copy of SIX OF CROWS signed! I'm bemoaning the fact that I only own the Grisha trilogy in e-book form… whiiiiich might need to be remedied before then.

I'm also excited about diving back into some other projects this week, now that I'm officially out of Revision-Land: finishing off a second draft of the fairy-tale retelling I wrote last year, outlining a new book, and maybe brainstorming yet another new book! Yay!!!

On the reading front, I devoured Victoria Schwab's VICIOUS and Naomi Novak's UPROOTED a few weeks ago. Both were absolutely stunning. VICIOUS freaked me out but I couldn't put it down (super-heroes! villains! chaos! revenge!). UPROOTED literally sucked me in like there was actual magic involved (wizards! enchantments! an angry forest out for vengeance!). Just, WOW.

Currently halfway through SCORPION RULES and CROWN OF MIDNIGHT, both of which are freaking me out for different reasons. I definitely need to read something light and happy next!

So that's what's happening in my bookish neck of the woods. It's HOT HOT HOT here, but we're so close to the end (I hope!). Cooler weather is juuuuuust around the corner. But not this week. This week it's supposed to be 105 or hotter through Saturday.

If you need me, I'll be eating pumpkin ice cream and blasting the AC while I pretend it's fall. (Mmmmmmm pumpkin ice cream.)

Cheers, all. Happy almost-October!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Book Review: A Circle of Salt

A CIRCLE OF SALT, by E. J. Weaver

I was completely swept up in this book. It has lovely, lyrical writing, gorgeous imagery, and a wonderful, old-fashioned feel that reminded me of George MacDonald.

E. J. Weaver does an amazing job weaving together Russian fairy tales into a compelling narrative about proud Vasilissa, one of the Folk cast out of the Summer Realm and forced to live among humans.

I was completely fascinated with how NON-human Vasilissa is at first: she shape-shifts into a horse and a fish. She raises towers from the ground. But she finds herself slowly caught up in the affairs of certain humans who she meets and helps along the way, even while she's being hunted by the terrifying Koschei, the Deathless. Koschei is the servant of the witch Baba Yaga, who wants to use Vasilissa to open the door to the Summer Realm…

The book is broken into sections instead of chapters: Vasilissa the Proud, Sivka-Birka, The Fisherman and His Wife, etc., and each section is a mini-story in and of itself, following the thread of Vasilissa's long sojourn in the human world. The stories are steeped in beauty and terror and joy, sorrow and longing, but love and hope, too.

A CIRCLE OF SALT kind of broke my heart, a little, but in a good way. Read it on a rainy afternoon with a big cup of tea and a cat nearby for snuggling if you get too teary.

You can find it on Amazon HERE.

Monday, August 17, 2015

What I've Been Reading!

So I promise a proper update post when I finish my edits (soon, I hope!!), but for now, here are the last several books I read!

ORPHAN QUEEN, by Jodi Meadows

Started out a little slow for me, but then I got swept up in the action and the AWESOME that is Black Knife, and I ended up thoroughly enjoying this.

Reminded me of a cross between CROWN DUEL and JACKAROO, two of my all-time childhood favorites.

Really, really interesting use of magic, too.

Warning: ends on a traumatic cliffhanger.

***still biting nails***

CRUEL BEAUTY, by Rosamund Hodge

I had such an interesting experience reading this book.

I started it last year and put it down because I wasn't really connecting with the story… But then, on the high recommendation of PRACTICALLY EVERYONE, I picked it up again and started over.

I really didn't like the beginning.

And then I got interested.

And then I got invested.

And then I LOVED IT.

And then I was SUPER SCARED that things were going to go horribly wrong.

And then my mind was blown.

I read the last twenty pages with my eyes open wide making traumatized noises and holding my breath (just ask my husband).

The ending was perfection.


So, so good.

ILLUSIONARIUM, by Heather Dixon

I really enjoyed this! Parallel worlds, airships, illusions, a one-eyed airman who's a little full of himself, siblings, almost-siblings, impossible odds and difficult choices and racing against the clock… I haven't read a YA solely from a (nerdy! Scientist!) male MC in a long time, and really loved his perspective.

I do wish we could have had a peek at more parallel worlds than just the one, and by the end I was so exhausted by all the escapes and captures and more escapes and more captures that I kind of needed a nap. :)

But overall, a great book. I hope she writes a companion novel, because there's lots of interesting things she could still explore!!

So, that's what I've been reading. Next up, VICIOUS, by V. E. Schawb!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Querying Author: Jen Fulmer

Happy Monday, everyone! Today we have the lovely Jen Fulmer with us! In addition to making incredible cake pops, being the mother of a super adorable almost-one-year-old, and writing exceptionally swoon-worthy kissing scenes, Jen is my stalwart critique partner! I can't wait until she gets to unleash Callie and Rory on the world. :-)

Jen Fulmer

Twitter: @jdmfulmer

How long have you been writing?
There hasn't ever been a time I can remember when I wasn't writing. My very first story was about a unicorn named Starlight. I think I was maybe five years old. But as for writing with hopes of getting published, it's been five years.

What inspired the project you’re currently querying?
This is a long story. Two years ago I was listening to Ministry of Magic (yes, that's Wizard Rock. I'm a super Harry Potter nerd) who have this song "Don't Leave" with the line "I know it's been such a long time since we've just been friends, and not soldiers on the front line of a war that we were born into, but we have to do this together". I was extremely taken with this line from the moment I heard it, and started thinking about what might happen if two kids were forced to fight in a war of their parent's making, and what they might do to get out of it. I was especially keen to focus on how they would view their enemy differently than their parents did. So, drawing from my great love of Tamora Pierce, I wrote a novel about a warrior princess and her prince best friend going on a quest to end their families' war, and falling in love. 
Unfortunately the novel didn't end up anywhere near resembling my original idea. I loved the characters, but the story needed big changes. Like, maybe to become an entirely different book. So I set it aside, which was good timing because my daughter was born right around then. For a few months I was pretty consumed with learning how to be a parent, I banged out a terrible Swan Lake retelling while I was still at home with the baby, and then three months after she was born I went back to work. Adjusting to working full-time AND being a new mom ate another month away. 
Then, sort of out of nowhere, I was listening to Lights' "Muscle Memory" (pretty much all of my books are inspired by songs), which is about the anticipation of seeing someone when you've been apart for a long time, and it just hit me. Suddenly I knew how to fix my book, and yes, it did involve a complete rewrite. I kept the history of the two main characters, and the war, but threw out everything else, and had a first draft in three months. Which is crazy fast for me.

What’s your elevator pitch for the project you’re currently querying?
One year ago Princess Callie rejected a marriage proposal from her best friend, Prince Rory. Now he's engaged to her sister, and she realizes she made the wrong choice. Though the wedding is two weeks away, they're drawn to each other more than ever. But when the mutual enemy of both their kingdoms attacks, they have to put their forbidden feelings aside and work together to save their countries from being overthrown, and their families killed.

What are you working on in the meantime to keep yourself from checking your email every three seconds?
Well, I just sent out my first query two weeks ago, so I've mostly been refilling my creative well and doing stuff for my Critique Partners. But I'm also brainstorming a Steampunk novel about a group of circus performers who use their awesome technology to pull off huge heists during their shows, à la Now You See Me. Plus romance, because I'm a sucker for the kissing stuff.

What are three books that have shaped you as a writer?
I'm going to cheat and say the THE IMMORTALS and SONG OF THE LIONESS quartets by Tamora Pierce are one. These books are so important to who I am because they were an integral part of my childhood. The Alanna books had a huge impact on the MS I'm querying, because they're what sparked my love for women fighting with swords as well as, or better than, their male counterparts. But I think the Daine books had more impact on me as an individual. 
The second is the HARRY POTTER series. Like the works of Tamora Pierce, these are books I grew up with. One of the things I always loved about them was the impressive cast of characters, and how well Rowling managed them. That's something I appreciate even more now, as a writer. One of my characters has seven siblings, and six of them play roles in the book—and that's just one character's siblings! Trying to find ways to distinguish characters and make them fully-rounded people when they only show up in two or three chapters is definitely a challenge! 
The third book is one I read recently, FIRE by Kristin Cashore. Everyone goes nuts when you talk about GRACELING, but FIRE is by far the superior book. Cashore has never shied away from difficult topics, but I thought the way she handled Fire's conflicting desires to be a mother, and not to pass on her condition, was beautiful and tragic and brilliant. I loved how Fire constantly encountered people who wanted to own or destroy her, and yet she still took complete ownership of herself. I loved the slow burn romance. I loved the tightly woven storytelling. FIRE is my favorite book of all time, and the one I aspire to.

Are you a plotter or a pantser or an all-of-the-above-er? What is your writing process?
Sort of a combination. I need to know my big plot points, and I need to know what I'm building toward over the next couple of chapters. But if I plan out too much in advance, I tend to loose my enthusiasm for the project. I like to keep things open and surprise myself along the way. It inevitably requires a lot of revising, but such is the life of a writer!

What advice would you give to a writer about to take the plunge into querying?
Do your research! I can't tell you how many times I see agents on Twitter talking about people not following their submission guidelines, or sending them queries for genres they don't represent. You'll save yourself a lot of time and heartache over the inevitable rejection by sending the agent only what they ask for.

How do you take your caffeine?
Chai tea lattes please!

Thanks so much for taking part in the interview series, Jen! Hugs and tea and lots of luck!!