My 2014 Writer/Reader Year

2014 was an interesting year. I don’t remember half of it (loooonnggg 7 months story…) But what I do remember, has impacted me greatly, growing me as a person and as a writer.

PERSONAL: In the spring, I went on an impromptu trip (as “keep me awake as I drive” companion) to Michigan with this crazy-amazing woman/mother named, Sarah who I’d kinda just met (she locked me in a hotel room for three days, where I wrote like crazy!!)..and, as they say, the rest is history! I now have a BFF who gets me and has stuck with me on this rollercoaster year! So thankful! Also this year, my SUPER Editor got engaged, and I’m a bridesmaid. Shopping with her for her dress and playing mannequin for my dress, has been so much fun! Looking forward to the wedding in July, 2015.

WRITING: I spent most of this year editing, revising, rewriting, and brainstorming BOUND. I sent out at least 100 queries and several proposals to agents (Status: Professional Waiter). My editor and I worked so hard this year–sweawordst & tears–and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished…now to find the perfect agent who agrees! 🙂

In September, I finally joined a critique group. There are 5 of us, and it has been such an encouragement to spend time with these ladies. We’re a great mix of writing talent and knowledge–it’s been so helpful! Can’t wait to see what this year has in store for us! We’ll always have SKYLARK!!

In 2013, my boys started going to a new school, and I have to pick them up every day. This put me in the path of Laurel Pardo–a VERY talented author who writes super-awesome TV scripts (Horror/mystery/paranormal—SOOOO out of my genre of quirky, witty YA fiction). Fast forward….Laurel and I are great friends, and recently partners! As I write this post, I’m in the process of adapting her scripts into a full-length novel! Stay tuned to meet Eli Toler–the cemetery Restorer!! So honored to be a part of this project!

I also worked on my other WIP’s…and got a few new plot ideas…So many ideas….:

  • Taken: “sequel” to BOUND–Main characters: Dillon Xanthis and Marisa Hale (YA Urban Fantasy)
  • Endicott: Main Characters: Endicott Keary (Cinderella’s best friend) Della Bentley (my cinderella), Daved Bentley (Cinderella’s Brother), Prince Cyril, Princess Keturah (YA fantasy/steampunk series)
  • Acacia: Main Characters: Acacia Mitchell, Samara Bethany (YA paranormal Series)
  • New Creation: Main Characters: Cayce Thornton, Marco Brooks (YA Christian Fiction)
  • Lines Crossed: Main Characters: Marianne (TBA), Chris (TBA) (Christian Adult)
  • Flip-Flop Kimmi in Tap Shoes: Main Character: Kimmi Joy Harper (Middle Grade Novel)

EXTRA BLESSINGS: In addition to all the ones above… 🙂 Through Facebook, I connected with SO many amazing people/authors who have blessed my life with advice, books (WINNER OF GIVEAWAYS!!!), friendship, and encouragement in my writing journey. This year, I also got to be a part of several editing/promotion projects! I did several book reviews and 2 YAA! CHAT interviews on my blog–hoping to do more in 2015!

I read and reviewed A Christian Writer’s Guide to The BooK Proposal by Dave Fessenden. My review was published!

Stop! Before you even write one word, read this book! Author Dave Fessenden makes the case that the proposal should come first, and that writing it can actually be enjoyable. Dave’s invaluable wisdom saves countless hours of Googling “How to write the killer book proposal.” It gives writers the how-to and examples they need to catch the editor’s eye and nail down the ever-elusive publishing deal.  –Janelle Leonard, novelist, and blogger at The Writing Life: behind the Scenes with an Author of YA fantasy

Through a dear writer friend, I connected with Oliver Dahl–got to read and help with some edit/thoughts for his novel LIES Lies(My name is in the acknowledgements!!) Check out Oliver’s website: http://www.thedreamersadventures.blogspot.com/

One of my greatest joys, is helping promote and encourage other writers toward their dreams–love seeing them accomplish something that they’ve worked so hard for.

Shout out to: ** Michelle Weidenbenner:   http://randomwritingrants.com/

**Olivia Stocum:  http://www.oliviastocum.com/

READING: I didn’t read as many books as most years, but what I did read this year definitely had an impact on who I am as a person and as a writer. Here is list of my 10 out of 10 coffee cups awards:

bookTV

YOUNG ADULTbookAG

Crash Into You & Red at Night & Dare You To Katie McGarry

Skull Creek Stakeout Eddie Jones     

Out of Easy Ruta Sepetys

bookRS    Splintered A.G Howard

Spies and Prejudice Talia Vance   

 On the Fence Kasie West

The Queen of the Tearling Erika Johansen 

ADULT

This year has been one of the BEST reading years for Adult fiction! I discovered, and fell in love with the:

Brain-tweaker, heat-felt stories: Katherine Reay

https://janelleleonard.wordpress.com/2014/11/08/lizzy-jane/

BookKRLizzy & Jane

Fellow Jane Austen (& Arrow) fanatic: Mary Jane Hathaway

https://janelleleonard.wordpress.com/2014/07/09/yaa-chat-mary-jane-hathaway/

BookMJ2 BookMJ BookMJ1

Swoon-Worthy, quirky, & fun: Nicole Deese

https://janelleleonard.wordpress.com/2014/11/22/interview-with-nicole-deese/

cliche

Also loved this novelization of The YouTube series The Lizzy Bennet Diaries:

The Secret Diary of Lizzy Bennet Bernie Su & Kate Rorick

BookBK

NON-FICTION

BookJAHBookKIThe Jane Austen Handbook Margaret Sullivan

A Christian Writers Guide to the Book Proposal Dave Fessenden

How to Adapt Scripts Into Novels Rene Gutteridge & Cherly McKay

RE-READS

Cinder Marissa Meyer, Pride & Prejudice Jane Austen,

Emma Jane Austen,

Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets J.K. Rowling

Last but not least . . .

DISTRACTION: I discovered I-should-be-writing-but-I’m-watching-yet-another-episode TV showsarrrow

Arrow (Absolutely love Felicity and her babbling ways!)

 The Flash

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

Firefly (WHY did it take me soooo long to watch this???)

Witches of East End

YOUTUBE: The Lizzy Bennet Diaries & Emma Approved

Well, that my year in a nutshell review. Thanks for journeying with me on my blog and my writing life! So appreciate ALL of you!! Here’s to 2015 and all the amazing BOOKS waiting to be read (and written).

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YAA! Chat with Mary Jane Hathaway

Introducing Mary Virginia Munoz, or as her books like to call her:

MARY JANE HATHAWAY

JL: I’m sooo excited to have you on my blog today. Thanks for agreeing to be the first interview on YAA! Chat. And thank you for donating for the book GIVEAWAY!

MH: Thank you for having me, and I’m absolutely honored to be your first interview!

JL: Before I start the questioning, I just wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you, and I’ve seriously fallen in love with your books!! I like LOVE all things Jane Austen, so of course I had to read your Jane Austen Takes the South series. Boy was I in for a pleasant didn’t-get-much-else-done-for-the-rest-of-the-week reading spree. Your books aren’t merely entertaining twists or retellings of the classics. Yes, they have all the main hero/heroine, major plot points, themes, love story, and ending, but the journey to get there is a refreshing, very well-written surprise! And I must say, you definitely win the TASTEFULLY HOT award! Especially for Emma, Mr. Knightley and Chili-Slaw Dogs! *Cue self-fanning*

Some “Serious” Writer Questions

JL: Where do you get the inspiration for your character names?

MH: Ohhh, so funny you ask. I take their names from the books in front of me on my desk. Franklin Keene is from my Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books, for example.

JL: I absolutely love your covers! Who designed/inspired your them?

MH: I have about 3 different versions on my covers. The first version was a stack of books, which did NOT scream romance, so that was very confusing for some readers. I got reviews that said, “I thought this was a history book about food”! The next cover was very pretty and simple. The first professional cover was through the Killion Group. And these are by Howard Books. They have a great design team!

JL: What’s your favorite way/method to get past writer’s block?

MH: Dishes. And take a hot shower. Something about NOT being able to write anything down unlocks that place in my brain.

JL: Did you do anything weird while researching this series?

MH: I actually like to try out all the food my characters might be eating, so when I’m working on an Austen takes the South book, we eat a lot of interesting dishes! And I like to watch a lot of documentaries.

JL: Do you outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you? (Plotter, Pantster, or my favorite, Staller (You play on Pinterest, facebook, clean, do tons of research—not much actual writing until deadline time…LOL)

MH: HAHAHAHA! I haven’t heard that one! I’m definitely more of a Panster, but with a twist. After I write the scene, I scribble in a big map I have. I write down who, what, where, and when. Then I step back and see how it matches with what happened before. I might move it, but it gives me a good idea of what’s happening next… even though it’s backwards.

JL: Which actors/actresses do you have in mind to play your main characters?

MH: Ohhh, someone asked me that once and I had no idea. I don’t really watch many movies, but I see Shelby as tender-hearted girl with a tough exterior. I’ve seen Sandra Bullock play a character like that and she was just perfect. Hardnosed and funny, then so vulnerable she made me weep! And I used Richard Armitage’s picture for inspiration with PPCG. For me, he can look very serious and dour, when on the inside, he’s actually feeling something else. He has a good “make my day” face.

 The Randomness Questions

Favorite accent: I LOVE the New Orleans accent. *swoon*

What do you have on your fridge door?: Lots of kid art! I try to put ‘to do’ lists there and they just get covered with art.

What’s your favorite joke?: “What’s green and has wheels?”

“Grass. I lied about the wheels.”

What was your last dream about?: Hm. I have no idea. I don’t sleep much, and when I do, I don’t think I dream! But the last one I really remember was being in a giant house and trying to round up all my kids. Just when I’d get four or so, I’d lose a few and start looking again. I’d get close to getting them all together, but never quite finding all of them in all those rooms. Very funny…

Favorite party game: Quelf! My kids make me play it and I laugh my fool head off.

Would you like to build/design your own house? What would it be modeled after?: Interesting question! When we moved to our house, we had one child. It had two rooms and one bathroom. Ten years later we had six kids and it STILL had two rooms and one bathroom. Yikes. So we recently built on and that was a very fun/frustrating project. We had to interview contractors and make plans. If we had to start from scratch I’d definitely build up, not out. My husband likes the ranch style homes, while I prefer stairs and levels.

When writing with ink, which color do you prefer?: Thick black.

Choose a movie title for the story of your life: Cheaper by the Dozen, haha!

What color is your toothbrush?: Purple

What’s your favorite quote?: I love quotes. I have hundreds of them written down. But one of my favorites is from Anne Lamott about writing:

“I’ve managed to get some work done nearly every day of my adult life, without impressive financial success. Yet I would do it all over again in a hot second, mistakes and doldrums and breakdowns and all. Sometimes I could not tell you exactly why, especially when it feels pointless and pitiful, like Sisyphus with cash-flow problems. Other days, my writing is like a person to me― the person who, after all these years, still makes sense to me.”

I loved that and it resonated with me because I feel like the whole process of writing and creating and publishing is very personal, and each process is different. I look back at how I wrote a book and when, and it seems that time is a blessed one for me, as if I was meeting and learning about a dear friend the entire time.

JL: Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?

MH: Just that this is probably the funniest interview I’ve ever done! And thanks so much for having me on your blog!

JL: So glad you came over! 🙂

LEARN MORE ABOUT MARY & HER WORK

 BOOK GIVEAWAY!!!

All right, readers: Leave a comment for a chance to win Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits (signed!) and Emma, Mr. Knightley and Chili-Slaw Dogs (signed!) I’m giving away 3 copies of each, so if you can keep your friends from coming over to the blog, you might be able to get all of them to yourself!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jane Austen-Inspired & Approved

***WARNING: This blog post is a book-crush gushing of MEGA proportions. Just so you know . . .

I started reading this book at 8:30 PM. (Got it from my library, but will be changing that status ASAP…I want my OWN COPY, to hold in my hands, to caress, to underline, to quote . . .)

Finished it at 1:30 AM. (Just in time to give my hubby a kiss and send him off to deliver happiness in the form of cookies.) I’m a devourer of anything Jane Austen and Austen-inspired, and Dear Mr. Knightley is HANDS DOWN the BEST Jane Austen-Inspired book EVER!! I can’t get it out of my head. I feel like I did when I first discovered and read Pride and Prejudice. I can still see my young self sitting, curled up on the couch, snorting and crying, not wanting the story to ever end.

I so wanted to savor Dear Mr. Knightley, make it last more than 4 hours (I know the YEARS it takes to write a story…and it only took me 4 hours to read), but I couldn’t stop. This book was an emotional ride of heart-grabbing honesty, REALness, tear-duct perpetually filled and refilling–like reading pages from my journey.

I LOVED EVERY minute.

 This morning I find myself still “in the book.” So, in the spirit of the book (Samantha writing letters/sharing her heart and thoughts to “Mr. Knightley”) and of Jane Austen herself, I’ve decided to write Ms. Reay a letter. Commence the book-crush gush:

Dear Katherine Reay,

“There could have been no two hearts so open, no tastes so similar, no feelings so in unison.” ― Jane AustenPersuasion

I’m wearing a T-shirt today that says “It’s all Katherine Reary’s fault.” It’s your fault that I’m red-eyed and look like I haven’t slept in days. Your fault that I want to plant myself on my couch with J.A. in one form or another (Sherlock may join the party too). Your fault that I’m super emotional, but full of praise to the God I’m in a relationship with. Your fault that I won’t get any writing done (Well, maybe, I am feeling inspired). Your fault that my three-year-old just ate a bag of popcorn for breakfast…

I’m not sure what your writing journey has been like. But if it’s anything like mine, it’s been filled with years of WAITING, happy dances, supporters and hindrances, WAITING, tears, frustrations, WAITING, screams, thoughts of giving up and becoming a super model (JUST KIDDING, in my case at least), WAITING, and of course, more WAITING.

I just want to tell you IT WAS ALL WORTH IT! Thank you for pressing onward, for persevering through all the “chains”, and for getting Samantha Moore’s story in print. Her journey was my journey. I was in the same “I’m worthless” boat as she was. But like Sam’s journey, mine led me to the “I surrender ALL” and “I’m Worthy and Loved” camp.

Samantha’s story was a huge reminder as to why I write–what I desire my novels to be like. I write because I have trouble speaking/sharing my heart, but I am slowly finding my voice off the page and without ink. I’m an avid Jane Austen fan, and a firm believer and supporter of REAL. I spent most of my life living behind a mask of perfection, a mask of fake. It wasn’t until I found my identity as CHILD OF GOD, that I was able to surrender and take off the mask. Now I’m real (sometimes too much–tend to scare people . . . haven’t had much practice yet with speaking).

Reading Samantha’s story was like reading pages from my journal–my heart has thought and said much the same. (Excuse me while I quote you…)

P. 151: “Through it, I found a new character. Me. She’s bold and fairly feisty, with serious timidity issues at times. Every step she takes forward, she glances back and even retreats. But she’s got courage. I think she’ll make it…I hope to like this new character.”

P. 200: “Changing, being real and becoming who you want to be, is hard work.”

Again, THANK YOU for writing your heart and sharing it with the rest of us. You wrote on page 198 that: “Austen’s descriptions of human nature are spot-on.” I’d have to say that “Katherine Reay’s descriptions of human nature is spot-on.”  

With all my heart,

J. L.

 

The Headmistress of Rosemere

By: Sarah E. Ladd

I get so excited, and am honored, when asked to read a book and review it. Just finished reading The Headmistress of Rosemere, by Sarah E. Ladd. This was the second book in the Whispers on the Moors Series. (Here’s the link to the review of the first book in the series, The Heiress of Winterwood, https://janelleleonard.wordpress.com/2013/04/03/timeout-tuesday-2/)

Here’s my FIVE coffee-cup review:

I love Jane Austen. And anything that has the backdrop and feel of Jane Austen is high on my list of book-loves!

Patience Creighton and William Sterling are perfect for each other. But circumstances, secrets, past indiscretions, accidents, and people keep getting in the way of their happily ever after. William is a gentleman–with a dangerous, rakish reputation–who has accumulated substantial debts, and is being hounded by his creditors henchmen. Patience is the Headmistress of an all girl’s school, and William’s tenant. Neither one of them wants or thinks they deserve to get entangled with the other. But a late night meeting–after William is severely wounded–reacquaints them. Their lives become entwined when they find they can’t stay away from each other. But circumstances change, and secrets, events, and more characters are thrown into the equation: The carriage house at Rosemere is burned, and a student is injured (which opens a door to a room full of secrets). Patience’s brother returns home with a wife and plans that will change everything Patience has worked toward. An old suitor returns and vies for Patience’s hand, reopening wounds. And a broach and romance from William’s past resurfaces.

The Headmistress of Rosemere takes you on a fast-paced carriage ride all the way from page one until the satisfying conclusion.

Thanks Sarah for the privilege of reading this. Loved this, and can’t wait to read the next book in the series!

I’d Read Again in a Second!

There are so many great YA reads out there. But for a book to make it on MY favorite list, it has to pass the I-Would-Read-This-Again-In-A-Second test & the I-Own-This test (or will be buying a copy ASAP). So, as of today, May 23, 2013, here is a list of my top favorites.

Brodi Ashton: Everneath & Everbound & Neverfall (Novella)

Jane Austen: I’m not sure if her novels count as YA, but ALL her books are on my list, in the #1 spot!

Lisa T. Bergren: Waterfall & Cascade & Torrent

Gail Carriger: Etiquette Espionage

Kristen Cashore: Graceling & Fire & Bitterblue

Rae Carson: The Girl of Fire and Thorns & The Crown of Embers & The Bitter Kingdom & The Shadow Cats

Ally Condie: Matched & Crossed & Reached

Sarah Beth Durst: Drink, Slay, Love & Enchanted Ivy & Ice

Diana Wynn Jones: Howl’s Moving Castle

Jenny B. Jones: So Not Happening & I’m So Sure & So Over My Head & There You’ll Find Me

Robin LaFevers: Grave Mercy & Dark Triumph

Marissa Meyer: Cinder & Scarlet

Stephenie Meyer: Twilight & Breaking Dawn & The Host

Rick Riordon: Percy Jackson Series (This series falls somewhere between Middle Grade & YA, but I really enjoyed it!)

J.K Rowling: The Harry Potter Series

Polly Shulman: Enthusiasm

Scott Westerfield: Uglies & Pretties & Specials & Extras

 

**Well, that’s it for today…I’m sure I’ll think of a few more as soon as I publish this…

What about you? What are your top 5 favorite YA reads?

 

 

Saw this list today, and I have read most of them…might make this my goal, to read all the books on this list. We’ll see… 🙂

http://www.npr.org/2012/08/07/157795366/your-favorites-100-best-ever-teen-novels