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!!