Monday, January 16, 2017

YA Book Pick: WANDERLOST by Jen Malone

Once a month, we choose an outstanding YA book to review. We want to spotlight books of interest to aspiring writers, as well as highlight some of our favorite books and authors!

This month's book pick is WANDERLOST by Jen Malone.

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Not all those who wander are lost, but Aubree Sadler most definitely is on this novel’s whirlwind trip through Europe.

Aubree can’t think of a better place to be than in perfectly boring Ohio, and she’s ready for a relaxing summer. But when her older sister, Elizabeth, gets into real trouble, Aubree is talked into taking over Elizabeth’s summer job, leading a group of senior citizens on a bus tour through Europe.

Aubree doesn’t even make it to the first stop in Amsterdam before their perfect plan unravels, leaving her with no phone, no carefully prepared binder full of helpful facts, and an unexpected guest: the tour company owner’s son, Sam. Considering she’s pretending to be Elizabeth, she absolutely shouldn’t fall for him, but she can’t help it, especially with the most romantic European cities as the backdrop for their love story.

But her relationship with Sam is threatening to ruin her relationship with her sister, and she feels like she’s letting both of them down. Aubree knows this trip may show her who she really is—she just hopes she likes where she ends up.

First Line: "I'm wedged into the pantry, between forty-seven rolls of toilet paper and an industrial-sized box of Raisin Bran." 

This line does a good job of setting the tone for the rest of the book—funny and intriguing! Why is the narrator stuck in the pantry? What kind of person buys toilet paper in  >47 roll quantities?

Highlights: There were so many highlights in this book! First of all, the main character is endearing and likable. I winced in sympathy throughout the first few chapters as Aubree's life went horribly wrong. I desperately wanted her to redeem herself—and I cheered when she did.

The romance was great. There was enough character development for the love interest so you understood why she'd fall for him, but it never felt like insta-love. Finally, the book was so funny! The elderly tour guests especially were hilarious.

Notes for Writers: One of the best things about this book is its amazing scene descriptions. You can see Amsterdam, or Salzburg, or Monte Carlo in your mind's eye as the action unfolds. If you want to improve your setting descriptions, this is an excellent book to study.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Beta Readers

Writers need Beta Readers - they need that fresh set of eyes to help improve and possibly shape the manuscript into something even more polished and likable.

But how can writers go about finding such a valuable creature?

K.M. Weiland  at has some good advice on how to find and keep beta readers.  For more information, check out the following articles of hers:

Beta Reader Etiquette
15 Places to Find Your Next Beta Reader

The problem I'm running into is how to find a trustworthy Beta Reader (aside from using friends).  I've had two writer friends recently run into people stealing their ideas - one had trouble with beta readers in a local writers group and the other had trouble with beta readers from an online fan fiction site.

My internet search on the issue came up with very little other than the suggestion of having Beta Readers sign contracts. Thus, I turn this question over to you dear readers.  I know this problem is rare, but it still happens.  So, what suggestions and advice might you offer?  I personally like using friends because not only do I trust them, but I can also get together and discuss the ms with them in person, but not everyone does and friends might not be experts in your genre.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Author Merrie Destefano talks LOST GIRLS, her advice to writers + a giveaway!

I'm excited to have another author stop by to share their thoughts on writing. Please join me in welcoming Merrie Destefano to Thinking to Inking! Her latest release, LOST GIRLS is out today from Entangled Teen. Don't forget to scroll to the bottom of the post for a chance to win a Kindle Fire and a copy of Lost Girls!

Welcome Merrie! Congrats on the release of LOST GIRLS. It sounds fantastic and the cover is beautiful! Tell us a little bit about your path to publication. How did LOST GIRLS differ from other books you've released, if at all? What advice do you have for writers still working to make their publishing dreams a reality?
Thank you very much for the kind words about Lost Girls! I love the cover too. (Yay!)

Lost Girls is different from other books that I've already released in a few ways. First, it was written for the young adult market. My two previous, traditionally published books were written for the adult market. That said, my second book, Feast had a teen character in it—Elspeth—and I really enjoyed writing her scenes. In fact, a lot of people told me she was their favorite character in the book. She seemed to come alive on the page better than many of the other characters. So, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when the next book I wrote was a young adult novel, Fathom (self-published). After that, I was hooked. YA books had stolen my heart.

Lost Girls is also different from my other books because it's my first contemporary novel. It didn't start out that way, though. In the first draft, it had many science fiction elements. When those were taken out, the story became much stronger—a result that surprised me. I hadn't realized what a powerful story line I had hidden beneath all the fantastical elements.

If I was going to give advice to other writers who hope to be published one day, I'd say, don't give up. There is a group of writers I've been friends with since I first started writing book-length manuscripts. Guess which ones have published their books? The ones who kept writing. Those that stopped, for whatever reason, are not published yet. The only way to become a better writer is to keep writing. The only way to get published is to keep writing. Of course, you'll need to study the industry, work on your craft, perhaps join a writer's group and go to a few writer's conferences, but ultimately the thing that will make your work stand above the work of everyone else is that you have been serious about your desire to write. And if you are a writer hoping to be published one day, I say, Yay for you! Go for it! I hope I see your book on the shelves one day!

Lost Girls by Merrie Destefano
Publication Date: January 3, 2017
Publisher: Entangled Teen

Fight Club meets Black Swan—Rachel wakes up in a ditch to find she doesn’t remember the last year of her life, and that everything—including herself—is vastly different than she remembers.

Yesterday, Rachel went to sleep listening to Taylor Swift, curled up in her grammy’s quilt, worrying about geometry. Today, she woke up in a ditch, bloodied, bruised, and missing a year of her life.

She doesn’t recognize the person she’s become: she’s popular. She wears nothing but black.

Black to cover the blood.

And she can fight.

Tell no one.

She’s not the only girl to go missing within the last year…but she’s the only girl to come back. She desperately wants to unravel what happened to her, to try and recover the rest of the Lost Girls.

But the more she discovers, the more her memories return. And as much as her new life scares her, it calls to her. Seductively. The good girl gone bad, sex, drugs, and raves, and something darker…something she still craves—the rush of the fight, the thrill of the win—something she can’t resist, that might still get her killed…

The only rule is: There are no rules.

About Merrie Destefano 

CURRENTLY A FULL-TIME NOVELIST and magazine editor, Merrie Destefano’s next novel, LOST GIRLS, releases on January 3, 2017. Her other novels include AFTERLIFE and FEAST, both published by HarperCollins, and FATHOM, which was self-published. The editor of Victorian Homes magazine, she has also been the editor of American Farmhouse Style, Vintage Gardens, and Zombies magazine, and was the founding editor of Cottages & Bungalows magazine. 

With 20 years experience in publishing, she worked for a variety of publishing/broadcasting companies that include Focus on the Family, The Word For Today, and PJS Publications (now Primedia). Besides editing and writing, her background includes print buying, writing/producing radio promos, directing photo shoots, developing new products, writing jacket copy for books, creating sales media packets and organizing direct mail campaigns.

Born in the Midwest, she currently lives in Southern California with her husband, two German shepherds, a Siamese cat and the occasional wandering possum. Her favorite hobbies are reading speculative fiction and watching old Star Trek episodes, and her incurable addiction is writing. She loves to camp in the mountains, walk on the beach, watch old movies, listen to alternative music—although rarely all at the same time.


All prizes listed below will be given to one prize winner. Prizes listed are for a US winner only; if an International winner is chosen, the prize will be a $50 Amazon gift card.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

To MFA or Not To MFA Part Two

MFA in Creative Writing SignThe journey to an MFA continues. I've narrowed the low-residency programs to three:

1) Vermont College of Fine Arts, Montpelier, Vermont
2) Antioch University, Los Angeles, California
3) Warren Wilson College, Asheville North Carolina

Each program consists of two week intense residencies followed by a semester of independent study for a total of four semesters.

While I've narrowed down the field, I also want to delve deeper into each program to see if it's a true fit. Luckily each program provides opportunities for visits, information sessions, and online conversations (in case you can't make it to the college). 

Vermont College offers an incredible opportunity for interested students. Applicants can visit the school during the first week of residency in Montpelier.  Room and board is provided by the college for the time that the applicant is visiting (most applicants choose between 1 to 3 days). There is an opportunity to attend the residency workshops as well as tour with the administration. If you cannot visit the school in person, the college also has scheduled conference calls where applicants can converse directly with administration.

Antioch University offers information sessions two to three times a month (Mondays and Saturdays) on campus where interested students can visit, receive information from administration and learn more about the program. You can also schedule individual class visits and campus visits. At Antioch, if you attend an information session, you receive a waiver that waves the cost of your application ($50 USD). 

Warren Wilson is quick to reply via email when you are interested in learning more about the MFA program. I have requested additional documentation to be mailed to me and am waiting for the information to arrive (stay tuned!).

Next week, I'll be headed to Vermont College for the school visit. I look forward to keeping you posted in "The MFA or Not To MFA Part Three".  

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Twitter Pitch Contests: The Basics

If you follow people in the writing community on Twitter, you may have noticed some of them participating in Twitter pitch contests. These are organized a few times a year and are an opportunity to pitch your work to agents and editors (some of whom are closed to queries, so you might not be able to pitch them another way!).

Twitter pitching can seem intimidating at first. Once you get the hang of it, though, it can fun and beneficial—just ask the writers who've signed with agents or publishers thanks to a well-crafted tweet.

Here are six basic rules for Twitter contests.

1. Take the time to craft your pitches.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that because the pitches are short, they'll be quick and easy to dash off. In fact, it can be much harder to come up with 140-character pitches for your book than longer ones. You'll usually want to come up with a number of different pitches, too, since Twitter doesn't allow you to tweet the same thing twice (and you'll want to try out different angles to see which ones get more bites).

Here are some good resources to help you write your pitches:
Dan Koboldt's Brief Guide to Twitter Pitching
Literary agent Carly Watters' Guide to Twitter Pitch Contests
How to Win a Twitter Pitch Contest from Writer Unboxed

2. Follow the rules.
Each Twitter pitch contest is hosted by someone, and they'll have a post up with the rules for that particular contest. This is where you'll find out things like how many pitches you can do total, how often you can pitch, and what types of manuscripts are included in the contest.

Don't be the jerk who thinks they're above the rules. People who pitch too often get noticed by contest organizers and industry professionals—and not in a good way.

3. Use the hashtag(s).
Every Twitter pitch contest will have a unique hashtag that marks the pitches as part of the contest. These will generally be short to give you as much room for your actual pitch as possible. Some examples include #pitmad (Pitch Madness), #WVTP (Writer's Voice Twitter Pitch), and #DVPit (Diverse Pitch, designed to showcase work that's about and/or by marginalized voices).

You can also use additional hashtags, like #YA for young adult, #SF for sci-fi, #R for romance, etc. These can help agents and editors filter the contest feed. Don't get carried away, though—you need to leave room for the specifics of your pitch.

4. Support others.
One of the best things about these kind of contests is finding pitches that sound intriguing and connecting with other writers. If you see pitches you like, most contests allow retweeting or quoting those pitches to increase their visibility. An important note: don't favorite pitches you like, because this is normally the way agents and editors indicate their interest. It's a terrible letdown to see that favorite notification and then realize it's just a fellow contest participant.

5. Do your homework.
You're not under any obligation to submit your work to anyone who favorites your pitch. Take the time to research agents and editors who request. If you see red flags, trust your gut.

6. Don't take it too seriously.
Twitter contests can be a lot of fun, but they're just one more way to get eyes on your pitch. Even if you don't get requests, you can still query the agents who participated in the contest. It's often a lot easier to hook someone's interest with a full query than a one or two line pitch.