Pitch Wars 2017: #PimpMyBio

Pitch Wars 2017 is here and I’ve decided to join in the mayhem. (Not sure what Pitch Wars is? Check out Brenda Drake’s blog HERE.) Below you will find a post that shamelessly pimps two things very near and dear to me: myself and my writing.

The left picture, where I look like a slightly distracted vampire, is my author photo. The right picture (that’s me on the right and my husband on the left in case you’re confused) is more of what I actually look like. Notice the cats, there’ll be a quiz later.

About Me:

  • I’m addicted to Starbucks, cats, and Oxford commas.
  • I LOVE learning. I’m the weirdo who enjoys writing research papers, listening to lectures, and taking tests. I graduated Summa Cum Laude and work full time as a sonographer. I’m also very modest. (Hard to believe, I know.)
  • I’m painfully introverted, but you can woo me with cat videos, alternative music, and bacon.
  • I live in Michigan but hate snow. Please pay me to move somewhere warm, preferably Key West. I like houseboats and sand between my toes.
  • I have a Forrest Gump quote for nearly every situation.
  • I love cats.
  • I have 4 cats. (Frodo, Minga, Lennox, and River.)
  • Did I mention cats?

About My Writing:

  • I write and read young adult. All genres, all shapes, sizes, and colors. If there are teenagers, give it to me.
  • I recently completed the Story Genius course and extension course from Lisa Cron and Jennie Nash. I also spent three months working on Hiding Hudson with a book coach (the ever wonderful MG Pitch Wars mentor, Julie Artz!) through Author Accelerator.
  • I tend to write about things that make people uncomfortable: depression, chronic illness, suicide, etc. My goal is to put a human face on the “issues” so they become tangible, relatable people instead of just concepts.
  • My short story, “Distraction,” is available in NYC’s Subway Library. (Possibly the coolest opportunity I’ve had yet!)

About Hiding Hudson:

Eventual suicide has been on Hudson Trent’s mind since his early symptoms of Huntington’s Disease appeared. He figures he has a few good years left, but when his older brother Coop, who’s debilitated by the same disease, wants his life support pulled on national TV, living and dying suddenly terrify Hudson equally.

Unable to face losing Coop, Hudson escapes to the top of a twelve-story building, ready to jump. But he’s interrupted by Remi, a firework of a girl with a suicidal plan of her own. She’s not interested in saving Hudson’s life, only filming a video that will turn their final hours into the ultimate suicide note.

The last thing Hudson expects is for Remi’s honest spontaneity to uncover a side of life he’s never known. When their night of firsts and lasts fades into morning, Hudson finds himself back on the ledge. There he must decide what makes death worth chasing, and what, if anything, is reason enough to keep living.

HIDING HUDSON, a 65,000 word Young Adult Contemporary novel, will appeal to fans of ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES by Jennifer Niven and MY HEART AND OTHER BLACK HOLES by Jasmine Warga.

Ways To Love Me:

Best of luck to everyone partcipating in Pitch Wars! “I’m pretty tired… I think I’ll go home now.” -Forrest Gump

Your First Retreat

*Cross posted from: Flint Area Writers

The Flint Area Writers are going on retreat in August. One weekend, Friday through Sunday, devoted to writing, critique, and camaraderie among like-minded people. To prepare, I’ve gathered some suggestions and advice from veteran members Martha J. Allard, Melodie Bolt, and yours truly, about the DOs and DON’Ts of writing retreats.

The most important, and also least important, aspect of your retreat is finding an amicable location. This can be a tiny cabin snuggled in sleepy woods, a tent parked in a campground, or even a friend’s house – anything that takes you out of your normal space and forces you to adapt. A favorite of FAW is Gilchrist in Three Rivers, Michigan. Another location I researched recently is the Highlights Foundation Unworkshops in Pennsylvania, where $129 gets you a cabin and three meals per day. Wherever you go, make sure it’s equipped enough to keep you comfortable and inspired.

No matter how long you set aside for a writing retreat, be it a day, a weekend, a month, that span of uninterrupted time can seem daunting. It’s nothing but you, your notebook or laptop, that inevitable blank page, and hello, writer’s block! Your retreat begins well before you leave home. Use the following list the week before to prepare.

  • Reconnect with your work. Reread your manuscript, peruse your notes or outline.

  • Complete any necessary research and pack it with your writing materials.

  • Read a new (or old favorite) book about writing and get excited for what’s to come.

  • Make a plan.

    • Be realistic. If you don’t normally write 50 pages in one sitting, don’t expect to do it on retreat.

    • Decide if you’re writing for quality or quantity and stick to it. Maybe you only want to revise or write one scene, perhaps you’re looking to spew as many words as you can because you’re still figuring out what you’re writing. Maybe you’re starting something new. Whatever it is, make a concise plan for how you will spend your time and then stick to it.

Now that you’re prepared, the fun part begins.

  • When you arrive, give yourself some time to acclimate to your surroundings. Go for a walk, peruse the items left behind from others (Gilchrist has a lovely collection of journals in every cabin.) Breathe. Appreciate being in the moment, because there is nothing better than having time and space for creativity.

  • Pick out your writing spot and get comfortable. We suggest snacks, tea, or if you’re like me, a GIANT cup of coffee. Headphones for music or a fan to block out noises. Keep your notes close so you don’t have to get up to cross the room if you’re lost in the moment. Don’t be afraid to make a bit of a mess. I prefer to work in chaos.

  • Revisit your plan and remind yourself to stick to it.

  • Get to work!

  • If the words are flowing, make sure you take breaks. I once came back from retreat with a knot the size of Texas in my shoulder. Since then, I always bring my yoga mat and stretch between writing. Vary positions, put your feet up, sit on the floor, take your work outside. Remember to move!

  • If you find yourself staring at that annoying blank page, repeat the above steps. Go for a walk and take your notebook. Read a bit of something you find inspiring. (I often read 1-2 books on retreat.) Knock on your neighbor’s door and ask for a cup of sugar. (Just kidding, you should respect your neighbors!)

  • Some retreats will be more productive than others. Remind yourself of your plans and goals for your work. Being a writer means deadlines, even if they’re self-imposed.

  • If something else draws your attention, go with it. I started my current manuscript on retreat when I was supposed to be writing something else. Don’t waste your time or creativity!

  • WRITE! Fill that blank page with words. Even if you’re feeling uninspired, write one sentence. Then another. Ignore the devil on your shoulder that says it’s not good enough. Worries are for rewrites.

  • Remember to take care of yourself.

    • Sleep! Retreat isn’t just for writing, it’s also for recharging. If you’re tired, sleep. If you’re awake, write. I usually go to bed early on retreat and wake up at 4:30am. There’s something about a sunrise that’s so beautifully inspiring.

    • Stay hydrated! Tea, water, coffee, juice, whatever floats your boat. Keep that cup full and drink up. Sometimes an adult beverage or two will loosen up apprehension and help the words come. (Who am I to judge, right?)

    • Move! Go for walks, do twenty minutes of yoga, stretch your mind and your muscles.

That’s it for the list of dos. Now for the much shorter list of DON’Ts.

  • Don’t bother your fellow writers. Plan ahead of time when you’ll meet up to read aloud, commiserate, etc. Breakfast and dinner are usually good times to meet.

  • Don’t beat yourself up, but do reward yourself for meeting goals.

  • Don’t waste all your time on social media. If you MUST Facebook or Twitter, save it for break time.

  • Don’t make unrealistic goals. I said this earlier, but it bears repeating. If you aren’t a writing sprinter, don’t expect to suddenly change your habits. If you’re a slow writer, plan for a scene or two, and then make it happen.

What advice do you have for writing retreats? What’s your favorite part of getting away from it all? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks to Martha J. Allard and Melodie Bolt for the suggestions. I’ll see you on retreat!

Overhauling

For the past (almost) year, I’ve been surrounding myself with new writerly types. By new, I don’t mean new writers, I mean writers new to me. I’ve been basking in the shiny newness of their ways. And I’ve been learning.

Tuesday, I tuned into Jennie Nash’s AMA (Ask Me Anything). You can watch here. She holds them every Tuesday on the Author Accelerator Facebook page and answers any questions about writing and publishing. If you’re not familiar with Jennie Nash, YOU SHOULD BE. This woman is a wealth of writerly knowledge and she gives so much of it away for free. (And she has the best laugh, I swear.) Jennie Nash is the founder and Chief Creative Officer of Author Accelerator and she’s a book coach. Look her up, you won’t regret it.

During her AMA, Jennie talked about how the world does not want or ask for our writing. Yet here we are, day after day, month after month, toiling away at something that the WORLD DOESN’T WANT.

Wait, what?

As writers or artists or any creative type, we are harnessing our passion, something that no one else might ever care about, and we are pouring all our time and love into it. I won’t be the first person to say that writing a book is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. You’re definitely not going to finish writing a book if you don’t love it. And then you have this thing that nobody asked for, and it’s such a subjective thing, an endless feedback loop between writer and reader. Everyone filters our words through their own world lens. Which means two things:

  1. Some people will LOVE it.
  2. Some people with HATE it.

It also means there is truly a market for anything that is well written. (And probably some things that aren’t so well written. You all know what I’m talking about.) There is a remarkable amount of hope in that. So, future readers, I’m thinking about you. XOXO.

Jennie also talked about marketing and how the brunt of it falls on writers (as if we don’t have enough to do with all the writing and brooding and drinking!). This got me thinking about the book Be the Gateway I picked up from Dan Blank a while back. Those of you who know me well know how much I despise marketing. I bought Dan’s book because Jennie raves about it. Then I let it sit beside my bathtub because that’s where I was going to read it. I suddenly discovered a deep love of showers, Dan, I swear. But Jennie said to make yourself do it. To learn, to grow. It’s part of the process. So, I opened Dan’s book and I read.

I’m only 70 pages in and already I feel my insights shifting into something different, something more productive. What if marketing doesn’t have to suck? What if it can be fun? What if I told you this blog post is a result of Dan’s suggested marketing? Go get yourself a copy of Dan’s book Be the Gateway. It’s inspiring. I’m sure you’ll see more and more of his suggestions popping up on my blog, which will be getting an overhaul in anticipation of Pitch Wars, which begins August 2nd.

Look for more frequent updates and peeks inside what I’m working on. I don’t want to be a ghost who only shows up when I’ve got news, after all!

What I’m reading now:

The Secret Garden (audiobook) by Frances Hodgson Burnett – A MUST classic. I remember reading this in school or possibly only watching the movie. Been listening to the audiobook in the car with my son, Patryk. Hands down for sure the book is better than the movie. I also think it’s a good example of tying up loose ends by the end.

Be the Gateway by Dan Blank – See above. Loving this book. Will post more about it as I progress.

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate – I have one chapter left. Redgate is a fantastic, witty author who takes on major things, such as bisexuality, cross-dressing?, and acapella. Not necessarily in that order. Redgate recently announced this book was optioned for television. It’s a bit like Glee meets Pitch Perfect, except with more coming of age bits.

Now I Rise by Kiersten White – And I Darken, the first book in this series is one of the BEST BOOKS I’ve ever read. Lada is a fierce, mean (often justified) girl, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE reading about her. Kick ass girls are the best thing ever.

Cruel Prince by Holly Black – I love Holly Black. Guys, I have a big old crush on her. Cruel Prince was dark and fierce and I read on her Facebook today that just she finished the sequel. I need it in my hands!! Unfortunately, Cruel Prince doesn’t release until 2018!! Soo long for you to wait. Preorder!

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera – Silvera is possibly the nicest most down to earth person you will ever meet. He’s sincere and sweet and I just love him. Aside from that, he’s an AMAZING writer. Just try not to cry reading his work. Try. I dare you. They Both Die at the End is available in September – be sure to preorder!!

 

 

OCTOBER ALREADY??

Two months have passed since my last update. Overall, this has been a rough year for my writing. I had a lot of soul searching to do and decisions to make. I’m happy to report that I’m doing the right thing!  

27833542As of Tuesday I started the Story Genius writing workshop, which is a 10-week course based on the Story Genius writing method by Lisa Cron. (If you don’t have this book get it HERE. Also pick up Wired for Story. It has changed everything about how I write.) The course allows me to work with an editor, dig deep into my characters’ lives, and discover the real STORY beneath my words. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am. The course was designed by Lisa Cron and Jennie Nash. These ladies are fabulous and smart and so, so patient with us. You can check out more about the Story Genius course HERE. I’m only on the first lesson but already the ideas are flowing. I’ll try to keep everyone updated on my progress as the weeks go by.  

TOMORROW I will be in Toledo, Ohio signing books at the Glass City Author Event. This signing is HUGE and I’m stoked to meet everyone as well as hang out with fellow Inkspell authors Stephanie Keyes and Melissa Keir, and my favorite blogger/assistant Natalie of Better Call Your Bookie fame.

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After this event, I’m sorry to say that I’ll be scaling back on my “grassroots” campaigns and focusing more on writing and getting agented… 

Which leads me to an agent update. I’ve sent out a lot of queries this year and the response has been positive. I still have my manuscript out with a few agents and am playing the waiting game. (It’s so hard to be patient!) Of course, you’ll know something as soon as I do. If it’s rejection, I’ll be heartbroken but not defeated. I have a plan that I’m proud of. The lyrics from the song “Thrilled” by Punchline run through my head anytime I feel behind on this writing game, “So what if you’re late doesn’t mean you won’t arrive.”  

The last thing I’ll report is a bit more personal. I’m adopting 2 kids (making the kid to adult ratio in my house 3 to 2). Insanity has ensued, but we’ll make it through. We always do.  

All the best,

Kacey

THIS IS WHERE YOU COME IN

Let’s get right to the point: I NEED YOUR HELP.

Stepping Stones is nominated for the 2016 RONE Awards hosted by InD’tale Magazine. The only way to win? Fan votes. Yes, you. YOU decide my future.

You only need 3 things to vote.

  1. You must register for an account on InD’tale. This takes only a few seconds and allows you to vote in any of their competitions. Do so HERE.
  2. You must select Stepping Stones from the YA Paranormal List. It’s at the top of the list in the third category! (And, I mean, you don’t HAVE to choose Stepping Stones, but it would certainly warm my little heart!)
  3. SHARE this with everyone you know. Votes are the only way to win, and while I like to think I’m surrounded by a plethora of people at all times, it might be a slight fabrication of my mind. Share your friends with me! And in turn, share me with your friends. Well…this got awkward.

Anyways.

Do a girl a solid. Help Stepping Stones win and I’ll love you forever.

Promise.

All the best,

Kacey

Stepping Stones - Final

REVIEW: HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME

History Is All You Left Me – Adam Silvera

Available: January 17, 2017 from Soho Teen

Follow Adam on Twitter.

Add History Is All You Left Me on Goodreads.

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Adam at BEA this year. He was by far my favorite signing. He’s personable, humble, and so SO kind. If you ever have a chance to meet him or go to a signing, DO IT. He’s SO GREAT.

I should note that out of the 140 ARCs I picked up from BEA, History Is All You Left Me is the one I chose to read first. Because, it’s Adam Silvera guys. And his writing is gold.

History Is All You Left Me follows Griffin, a seventeen-year-old boy from NYC who has just lost the love of his life. Twice. Theo was Griffin’s first. First love, first sexual encounter, first everything. The early stages of their relationship is remarkably sweet and will leave the reader full of butterfly feelings.

You know from line one that this book will rip your heart out in the best possible Adam-Silvera-imagined way. The writing is raw, gritty, and impossibly real. The characters are written so beautifully flawed that they could be anyone. I’ll admit it, I wanted to cry from page 13 on.

Take Griffin, for example, our OCD narrator. He suffers from compulsions that force him to count things (in even numbers) and always walk or sit to the left of someone. What I like about him is that he’s imperfect, but through the other characters, we see how loveable he is. This seems to be a direct representation of life that anyone (especially those with low self-esteem) can appreciate. Though we are flawed, we still deserve to be loved. Throughout the book Griffin struggles to overcome his compulsions which leads to tons of anxiety. I loved the patience and concern the other characters displayed for him, even though sometimes their well-intentioned actions were not at all what he needed.

The characters make mistakes. Many, MANY mistakes. Sometimes I found myself hoping they’d make more, just because I knew I’d do the same thing in the same situation. Adam Silvera is remarkable in that way. He can boil down every human emotion and infuse it in the tiniest details until it’s powerful…almost a character in its own right. It will leave the reader with a profound sensation of being understood, something I’ve never really experienced in books until Adam Silvera took my reader heart by storm.

History Is All You Left Me is not a happy story, but it is a hopeful one. Silvera doesn’t shy away from anything—not sex, not mental health, not socioeconomic issues. He writes dangerously, which is perhaps why we love him and exactly what the contemporary YA genre has needed all along.

5 GIANT stars for History Is All You Left Me.

AT LAST, THE SERIES IS COMPLETE

Torch Rock Teaser - Copy

I sit before my computer in a confusing state of satisfaction and sadness. The earliest files in my hard drive for Reflection Pond date back to early 2012, though I think the actual writing started in 2011. There are dozens and dozens of files, if not hundreds. In the grand scheme of writing, four or five years for three books is not a long time, I realize that, but those years defined who I am as a writer. I began the series scared, uncertain of my own capabilities, and I’ve emerged from the other side more confident, more sure of myself and the risks I’m willing to take in my stories.

Today is the release day for Torch Rock, Book 3 in the Reflection Pond Series, the final installment of Callie and Rowan’s story. Much like me, the characters have gone on a journey to find their strength, to heal, and I’m deeply satisfied with this ending. I hope you, my readers, find it just as enjoyable as I do. I’ve already been asked if I’ll ever return to Callie and Rowan’s world, to expand on the secondary characters in the story, to follow the seeds of possibility I left strewn throughout the final novel. The truth is, I don’t know. I do have some bonus content, deleted scenes and such that may become available at some point. But right now, the end is justified, and I like the idea of readers creating their own possible futures for Rowan and Callie. The characters we love live on inside of us, and I hope some parts of Callie and Rowan live on in each of you.

To celebrate the release, I’ve made Reflection Pond free for today! On May 7th, the series will tour with Brook Cottage Books. You can still sign up for the promo day HERE.

I want to thank everyone who has stood beside me as I completed these books, especially those who encouraged me and listened to my issues (over and over again for weeks, months, and years). You know who you are. Thank you to the bloggers, reviewers, and every fan who has contacted me. Your support and enthusiasm always puts a smile on my face. Huge thank yous to my early readers, ARC reviewers, and everyone who has been cheering on Callie from the beginning. A big thanks to my designer Julia at Bioblossom Creative, who always, always exceeds my expectations with her beautiful covers. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

The entire series is available on Amazon. If you want some music to read to, check out the playlists I’ve created for Reflection Pond and Torch Rock. And when you’re done reading, please leave a review, even if it’s just an I liked it!

Reflection Pond

Amazon Goodreads Playlist

Poison Tree

Amazon Goodreads

Torch Rock

Amazon Goodreads Playlist