Posted in Randoms, Writer-ish

To Knit a Novel

knit postI love to knit. Amateurishly and at a snail’s pace, I sometimes feel a pull to keep my hands moving while my mind kinda drifts to the quiet places that don’t necessarily exist in my house. It’s in this way that I’ve worked on a blanket for over two years. In this last spurt of creating, I realized the draw and my love for it is a bit like how I ended up writing books.

One morning, I woke up with the notion of learning something new. I got to the craft store, and bought a how-to kit. Honestly, online tutorials helped more than some of the book’s awkward diagrams at first. And after a few practice runs, I set about making my children’s blankets. It took so long! Months upon months piled up where I knitted 4 x 6 patches because I thought that would be cute. After they were done, I realized I now needed to figure out how to piece it all together. I didn’t have a sewing machine at the time, so I hand-stitched them. I didn’t stop though. Nooo. In fact, I made another one. I kept going, little by little, learning new tricks along the way because I really loved both the act and the end product.

I make so many mistakes. Sometimes my fingers loop the loops without my eyes ever really seeing what they’re doing. Until it’s too late, and I’ve gone on for rows. Then the cost of unraveling all that work is too great. And I think, meh, no one will notice those few off-rows when the whole thing is done.

knit mistake pic

My process for new manuscripts is similar. I catch a spark, read a lot, and then after a while, set off doing the work. By then, I usually have a shape or a theme that’s really sticking out as something I want to accomplish this time around. The major difference being that I’m so much easier on my knitting self than my writing self. In writing, even within a beginning draft, if a bit of dialogue seems out of character, or my critique partners aren’t understanding a motive, my progress can totally shut down. I either stop, or begin the unravel to get back to the beginning of the mistake and fix it. But maybe, I could take a lesson from my blankets and just keep going. The knit/write comparison ends here. With writing the work needs to be layered, and I can fix anything along the way so long as I don’t stop the process. I get one shot when I’m knitting though, so I don’t even try to make it perfect. It’s just never going to happen. But spoiler, neither is my writing. Knitting me should create a totally imperfect scarf for writer me, so I can wrap myself up in it and re-effing-lax.

 

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Posted in Book Review

Book Review: Big Man by Matthew J. Metzger

For transparencies sake, I received an ARC for an honest review from SunFire Imprint of NineStar Press. As they are set to release my debut novel later this year, one might consider me affiliated.

 

Big Man
I dig this cover art.

Big Man, a YA contemporary with elements of sport and romance, presents readers with main character, Max Farrier. A young man from Cornwall, whose fear of failure and rejection keep him from pursuing his lifelong aspiration of joining the Navy. Not until he meets, Cian, through Maui Thai training, and starts listening to the people who love him, does Max finally see his life might be full of possibilities.

 

There is a rawness in all of Max’s true-to-life encounters. Depending on personal experiences, Big Man can be an uncomfortable read at times. The bullying Max endures is violent and humiliating in the worst ways. It’s graphic in nature, and alongside off-page sex, is listed with a warning on the publication page.

Max spends most of the novel struggling with self-loathing centered mostly on his weight. At first glance, he hates himself for being fat, a cliché to be sure, but this may serve as a surface-level assessment. Alongside experiencing years of abuse at the hands of peers, Max is grieving the loss of his grandfather. This important piece of back story plays into his cyclical feelings of hopelessness, fear, failure, and rejection. It’s not until Max lowers his guard and falls in love with Cian, a strong-willed individual that pushes Max in all the right ways, does the reader dare to hope that Max will emotionally grow.  

 

BigMan fave quote
Fave Quote

 

The family aspects of this book are also enjoyable. Both Max and Cian are surrounded by supportive, loving mothers. The adult relationships provide grounding, further enabling the lead character’s ability to see his own potential.

***POSSIBLE SPOILER IN NEXT LINE***

At the end of Big Man, this reader felt optimistic for Max and Cian’s future and needed that kind of resolution for both of them. I thought about this book long after finishing it. So, due to its lasting impression…

bigman rate

 

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: Drifting by Sarah Armstrong-Garner

For the sake of transparency, Sarah and I are critique partners. Plus, I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

drifting cover

Drifting is book two in the Sinking Trilogy from Sarah Armstrong-Garner and L2L2 Publishing. In book one, Sinking, follows a young girl, Jocelyn, who after being washed upon the shores of Ireland, with no memory, discovers her true self, and form, within the ocean that speaks to her. Drifting picks up right where Sinking left off, with Jocelyn and swoon-worthy ship captain, Aidan Boyd, separated by the worlds in which they inhabit. With quick action, the interconnected story lines of Jocelyn, Aidan, and Benlar tend to mirror each other. The reader consistently finds themselves trying to predict who the better match for Jocelyn is, but as her character grows and learns more about her history, the choice becomes an impossible one. They all risk losing everything they thought they knew about themselves.

The heart of this book is wrapped up in key concepts of good versus evil. Can such polar opposites coexist within one person? And if so, what does that mean for their relationships?

drifting fave quote

Armstrong-Garner’s characters are well-fleshed out, and three-dimensional even within the new worlds they find themselves in. The author threads science and technology into the mermaid society in an interesting way. A fast-paced plot with some pretty massive surprises should leave readers begging for the trilogy’s conclusion, Rising. Overall, it’s a unique story with big pay-offs.

drifting rate

 

 

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

TAWD with cat
Cat hiding behind Book

It’s not like any John Green book needs another review, but Turtles All the Way Down went on my to-read list as soon as it came out last year. I finally got my hands on it through our town’s rural library. And so, here we are.

In Green’s latest, two best friends, Aza and Daisy, search for clues to the whereabouts of a criminal, in order to earn a hefty reward that could change both girl’s lives. But that’s just one layer of this delicious little Midwestern treat of a book. Like most of Green’s work, Turtles All the Way Down is more than what it first appears to be. Peel away the first layer and your left with a group of kids, with contrasting levels of privilege, who already know about big losses in life. Yet, they are still willing to risk heartbreak because…well, they must. This is YA. And finally, you’ve reached the heart of this book, which for me was all about the mental illness lens. Told through Aza, Turtles All the Way Down shows a high school girl struggling with an outlook that, at certain times, is exhausting, compulsive, and teeters on frightening. And, yeah, that’s the point. Aza is anxious, obsessive, but also, trying.

There’s a kind of unquestionable truth in the delivery of Turtles All the Way Down. The shape of the story matches Aza’s spiraling thoughts, tightening and loosening throughout. The path toward coming-of-age for this cast of characters is not a neatly tied up bow, but, it’s okay. There is still hope in the okay.

TAWD fave line
Fave quote

The Fred Rogers documentary trailer circulated on social media the same time I was reading this book. In it Mr. Rogers is quoted saying, “Children have very deep feelings, just the way everybody does.” For me, this connects easily to Green’s cast of characters. Kids can be philosophical, pretentious, articulate, verbose, and loveable. Mr. Rodgers said so.

tatwd rate

 

 

 

Posted in Writer-ish

Author Spotlight: Sarah Armstrong-Garner

I’m so happy to share space this week with one of my favorite critique partners, Sarah Armstrong-Garner, as she releases her second novel into the wild.

Sarah’s first novel, Sinking, is YA fantasy following the story of Jocelyn a girl who wakes up on a beach in eighteenth century Ireland with no memory. Along the way, she meets and falls in love with Aidan, a handsome sea-faring ship captain. Book two, Drifting, continues Jocelyn’s adventurous transformation. And from just a peek at these two gorgeous covers, we can see where this might lead.

 

Sarah and I meet often to swap early manuscript drafts and critique each other’s work. This time around, she agreed to answer some questions I had about her process and writing a series.

1.) Drifting is the sequel in your mermaid adventure trilogy. What advice would you offer writers feeling they might have a series in them?

If you can, plan out ahead so everything lines up in the end. A great example of this is George R.R. Martin’s line, “Hold the door.”

2.) That was an epic moment! So, did you know Sinking would be a trilogy when you started writing it? If not, when did it begin to feel like a possibility?

No, I didn’t. When I started writing I thought it was one book, but Jocelyn, Aidan, and Benlar had other plans. As their worlds grew, so did the book becoming a trilogy. 

3.) What was the most difficult part of writing book two, Drifting?

World building the underwater scenes was daunting. I found I wanted to use everyday household objects in Mli/Jocelyn’s world that didn’t work under water. My amazing editor did a fantastic job reminding me where I was.

4.) If you could tell your younger writer self anything, what would it be?

Oh, I would tell me to not sweat the little things. Writing a book takes dedication, and turning it into a career takes a great amount of time. Rejection, bad reviews, and just bad days, in general, come with it. But once you realize rejections, reviews, and bad days make you a stronger writer, take them with a smile and keep writing. 

5.) What other YA books do you always recommend?

I recommend A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson, Caravel by Stephanie Garber, A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, and (It’s not YA, but the book is amazing!) Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman because they bring you into the story and the worlds the authors have created are unbelievable. And of course your book, The Evolution of Jeremy Warsh!

Ha! Thanks!

In critique group, we get chunks of a story spread out over extended periods of time, think a year or two. So, I am excited to sit down and read Drifting as a whole! Drifting is set for official release this Thursday, April 26th wherever books are sold.

Author-Head-Shot-Sarah

Congratulations, Sarah!

And if you’d like more information or want to connect with Sarah check out her website at https://www.saraharmstronggarner.com/. She’s on Facebook @SarahArmstrongGarner, and Twitter @SarahTwyla.

 

 

 

Posted in Writer-ish

Attempting an Aesthetic

The first time I saw a book aesthetic was in Brenda Drake’s Twitter pitch contest, Pitch Wars. I entered my currently-trunked-and-may-never-see-the-light-of-day YA fantasy.  Afterward, I logged on to the hashtag for some scrolling. While there, I noticed all these cool visuals other contestants put together for their work. They were so captivating! The images communicated tone so effectively.  I made some great connections that year within the online writing community, but I never got around to putting together my own aesthetic.

Fast forward to a brand new manuscript and last week, when I find out my release date has been moved up. *cue squees and nerves* So in honor of the bump, I worked up an aesthetic for the novel, and here it is. I hope you dig it.

~Jess

 

Jeremy Aesthetic

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: Fan Art by Sarah Tregay

FA Catpic
Cat of my Heart with Book

I used Fan Art as a comparable text in the query letter for my book. So, it made sense for it to be my first book blog review.

Fan Art by Sarah Tregay follows a young man, Jamie, through the last few months of his high school career. Through prom fall out, an insane senior prank, and publishing the school’s literary magazine, all the way up to graduation, Jamie flounders with feelings for his best friend, Mason.

 

The story is told through Jamie’s first-person point of view, a flawed human with a lot of internalized anxiety regarding acceptance and rejection. At times, this perspective feels limiting to the story, but ultimately it serves to highlight the super satisfying will-they/won’t-they formula. This reader rooted for Jamie and Mason up until the very end. In fact, the will-they/won’t-they aspect builds tension so effectively that the ending twist remains hidden in a way that really packs an emotional punch.

 

FA Fave
Secondary character, Eden, delivered my favorite line.

 

Readers will find the truest assessments of Jamie’s character coming from his friends and actions, rather than the way he thinks of himself. Which for this reader, served to create a more complex, three-dimensional lead. When do any of us really see who we are?

Very few things would have made this story more complete, except more illustration. Don’t get me wrong, enough details were provided for the reader to paint clear visual images. I just can’t get out of my head how satisfying it would be to flip the page and have a reader copy of the lit mag cover, or the poetry pages visually-represented the way they were in the zine, or *gasp* the wrinkled fan art.

Overall, this is a fun read. It’s a light and easy contemporary YA romance framing the big idea, everyone deserves to be seen.

Fan Art by Sarah Tregay receives...