Monday, July 14, 2014

Where's Your Mama?

by Wendy Bennett   

Parents in Young Adult (YA) books - or lack of parents in YA - has become a stereotype, a joke I see almost every time I read criticism of YA. 

Guess what? My Mature YA/NA heroine doesn't have parents. She is raised by her grandparents. What a cliche I am, right? Knowing this is a stereotype and jumping right into it. The hero doesn't have parents either. GASP!

I didn't write my heroine without parents for convenience of my plot. Quite the opposite, actually. I wrote my heroine without parents because every part of who she is/what she knows/how she thinks was shaped by the fact that she lost both of her parents before she turned 6 years old. My goal is that it intensifies the plot and gives the reader more insight into her character. 

I don't have a problem with YA protags not having parents - if it's done well. I think something like that needs to be researched, not just thrown in for convenience. The age a person loses a parent is important. Which parent they lose is important. How the parent was lost is important. How the loss is dealt with by the rest of the family is important. I tried to incorporate all of this into my novel. **Through my eyes and the research I have done. I understand that not everyone deals with loss the way my characters deal with loss.** However, in my research, I have noticed distinct patterns and emotions, especially in females who have lost mothers, that I believe gets glossed over in books. 

If I wrote a book set in the Regency period. I would have to research that period, right? I can't make things up off the top of my head because it fits into my plot. It loses authenticity and believability. I feel the same way about how the loss of a parent is portrayed.

I may be a little crazy on this one, because it's close to my heart. What do you think about parents in YA? 

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Art of Writing Friends to Lovers

by Shona Dowton

Photo by @gbanchio at

I love to read and write all types of genres and story plots. I have to admit though; writing about friends to lovers is a lot of fun. There are so many different scenarios that make it fun to write.

There are so many ways to bring the story alive. There is the sudden realization that he or she loves the other, the danger situation story, the funny meeting of the two, the girl at the coffee house, the ever so fun co-workers to more, to name a few.

It can be a sweet romance, one night of drunken sex, paranormal, YA/NA, fantasy, historical, and more. Whichever way, it is fun to write and read. 

Done right the enemy to friend to love story is also very fun. 

Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice is a great love story, Elizabeth dislike to like to realization that she is in love with Darcy is eye opening and thrilling to read each time. I always enjoy reading it and love the part when she visits his estate and the realization of how she feels starts to sink in.

How can we not love Darcy after he confronts Elizabeth on how much he loves her, but doesn’t want to admit it or be in love with her. 

“It is against his will.” How does one not sigh and think Elizabeth should say yes, but she is strong and stubborn of her own opinion. It is fun to see how he changes to be a better man and how she comes to realize that during her most unpleasant moments he is there for her. A friend without realizing it! No matter how many times I read the story I always fall madly in love with Darcy.

Jane Austen knew how to reach her readers. She took the basic stories and makes us love and root for the hero and heroin. Many of her books dealt with one of the friends realizing that they’re in love with the other.

The storyteller has to be careful to write the friendship to love in a way that carries the story all the way through without the reader being bored or not believing they are struggling with fantastic inner dialogs. We as readers want to be drawn into the story. We want to see them together, but also we are so drawn into their uncertainty that we keep reading to make sure they end up together. That is what makes me so excited to write about friends to lovers. Their inner dialogue is fun to write.

My current WIP explores the ups and downs of a friendship that wants more, but they’re afraid. Isn't that what is part of the experience? You like each other, but what if the other doesn't? The possibility that your best friend is the one your heart wants and they want you back just as much. It is a little terrifying and somewhat thrilling at the same time. 

Do you think the friends in this story have a chance?

Samantha  is standing next to her cool guy friend Luke. He leans against her in a friendly hey attitude. Samantha says hey back, but really she is thinking I wish he liked me. Her heart flutters when she looks at him, but, she puts on the just friend persona. She knows he doesn't feel the same way she does. Luke actions around her are the way he acts around his guy friends.

Luke is leaning against Samantha and just wants to be as close as he can to her. He's crazy for her. But how can she like an average guy like him? She is stylish, he is not. But she is the sweetest girl he has ever known. He sighs quietly, she will never notice him as more than a friend.

We all have had feelings for a friend at least once. Did yours know? Are you dating them now, married to them or did you never tell them? 

If you ended up with your friend how did it happen, who made the first move? 

* * *

Shona Dowton lives in beautiful Northern California. She believes that change is a good thing and inspiration is everywhere. Her current muse is the band Thirty Seconds To Mars. She is working on getting her work published.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The "R Word" - Rejection

by Wendy Bennett  

Let me tell you something about the "R word." 

In order to receive the "R word" one must write a book, edit a book, let people read the book, (probably) edit the book again, "finish" the book and submit the book to Editors and/or Agents. (And that was a very simple rundown of what goes into the process, but you guys get it, right?)


To even get to the "R Word" you had to do a lot of freaking work and you should be UBER-proud of yourself.

I received my first rejection last week. And I wasn't devastated by it as I thought I'd be. I'd prepared myself for rejection. Everyone gets rejected. Okay, maybe not everyone, but a lot of awesome people. I'm now in the awesome people who were rejected club. hahaha

Anyway, My first rejection was actually a really GREAT experience. 

Wait, Wendy, what? How can rejection be great?

Let me give you some background on how I got to this point:
I went to The RT BookLovers Convention two weeks ago.  I was planning on pitching my book to one editor, just to get my feet wet, see what I was getting myself into. 

Before my pitch to the editor I had researched, I attended a panel called "PitchSlap" which promised to help slap my pitch into shape. After I read my pitch out loud  3 of the 4 editors/agents on the panel asked for a partial. Right there, on the spot. IT WAS AWESOME!!! I was shaking. I was floored. I didn't expect that. I thought they would "slap my pitch up." 

I was dazed when I walked to the Pitch-A-Palooza session to find the one editor I had planned to pitch to all along...and she asked for the full manuscript.

Anyway, by lunchtime on Friday I had 4 requests, when I was only planning on pitching to 1 person. I KNOW that it's just a request, but this was my first time opening myself up to industry professionals, and it made me happy to leave the conference with 4 requests. 

So I did my work, wrote my query letters, wrote my synopsis, edited my manuscript again. And I submitted to all four. 

And received my first rejection. 

The rejection was kind and personal. The agent mentioned three things that she loved, and one thing that stopped her from taking on my project. 

I WAS JUMPING UP AND DOWN. She actually wrote three things she loved. She actually personalized my rejection. I think (from what I've read) this is gold in the publishing world. 

I know that my work is not the right fit for everyone. I appreciated that the agent was kind, helpful and honest. We weren't a good fit. And that's okay! If I get an agent at all, I want an agent that LOVES my book. How can they sell it if they don't love it? 

Was I upset? At first, yes. The tears came. The Why doesnt everyone in the world love my book?question was asked. But rejection is a part of life. At least, the life Ive been living for 35 years. Not everyone likes me (WHAT? WHY? HOW?) not everyone likes the choices Ive made, the type of car I drive, the philosophies in which I live my life and raise my kids. 

Did I lose you? Stay with me, its not a random tangent.

Rejection is a part of life. I do it. You do it. People do it to us. We do it to others. I picked the man I wanted to marry and rejected the millions of other guys lined up at my door. (joke?) I picked Central Michigan University and rejected the other universities that had accepted me. I know these are very different, but think about it in the grand scheme of things. We all make choices that are best for us. I wasnt trying to make the admissions people at another institution cry by not picking their school, I was making the choice that was right for me. An agent or editor isnt rejecting my writing to make me cry, or feel bad, it just wasnt right for them. 

I can see that now, with thicker skin and life experience. Would I have thought this way twenty years ago? Hell, no. Id be face down on my pillow crying my eyes out - after drowning myself in whatever beer was on sale that night.

But I get it now. Just because you get rejected doesnt mean your work it bad! 

So thank you to the agent who rejected me. I learned. I grew. I was able to get over it and see it for the good and how it can help me in the future. 

* * *

Wendy Bennetta proud Detroit native, is a NA writer who fell in love with reading, writing and hockey all before she became a teenager. She did not, however, fall in love with snow. So after graduating with an English degree from Central Michigan University, she moved to the warmth of North Carolina for the remainder of her winters.

Wendy spends her days chasing after her two, high-energy sons and writing things she wants to read. When she’s not chasing her crazy kids or pecking away at her laptop, she enjoys reading, watching her beloved Detroit Red Wings, and rocking out at concerts with her husband.

She is currently working on her first novel, a contemporary New Adult romance featuring a hot hockey player hero.

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Fresh Eyes on the Page: Beta Reading

by Carla Luna Cullen

So, you’ve finished the first draft of your manuscript, worked it over with a critique partner (or two) and done the necessary revisions. You’ve polished it up so it shines, with no grammatical clunkers or spelling mistakes. Is it ready to submit? Nope. Now is the time to send your baby off to a few beta readers.

Everyone has his or her own way of revising a manuscript, but for me, beta readers are an essential part of the process. It’s not the person who sees the work-in-progress, like a critique partner or critique group, but the person who reads the entire manuscript, all the way through, and looks at the big picture. The process can take a few rounds, especially if major revisions are required, but it’s definitely worth it.

Having used beta readers (and having read for numerous writers), I thought I’d share some of my thoughts:

Why Use Beta Readers?
  • As writers, we’re too close to our work to see if characters seem flat, if the tension sags mid-way through the book, if our amazing plot twist is too obvious, or if the ending is resolved too easily (one of my biggest flaws!).
  • Beta readers spot errors, inconsistencies, and little flaws that we might gloss over because we’ve read the same words so many times.
  • If more than one beta reader has a problem with a character or a scene, then it’s definitely worth considering. With my last round of readers, three people pointed out the exact same issue, which meant it was a definite red flag.

Finding and Working With Beta Readers
  • Beta readers don’t have to be writers; some people prefer to get feedback from readers. For example, my thirteen-year-old son, who loves middle grade adventure and science fiction, has read for a few MG writers I know. He’s great at pointing out places where the story dragged or confused him. 
  • Places to find beta readers in the writing community include: local chapters of SCBWI or RWA, online contests (like The Writer’s Voice, Pitch Madness, and Pitch Wars), Twitter, and sites like CP Seek.
  • You don’t have to exchange manuscripts, but it’s nice to offer. Whenever someone beta reads for me, I always offer to return the favor, depending on my schedule. 
  • If you aren’t sure about whether a reader will be good fit for you, or vice versa, start by sending a few chapters to test the waters. 
  • Be realistic about your expectations. Do you need a basic overview, outlining the big-picture issues, or detailed comments using Track Changes? Do you need a quick turnaround time or can you wait for weeks or months?

After you get Feedback
  • If you get a critique you don’t like or comments that don’t work for you, wait before responding. Don’t fire off an angry letter, furious that the reader didn’t “get” you. It’s fine to send follow-up questions for clarification, but keep them friendly.
  • If a comment doesn’t resonate with you, don’t use it. But think about it. Set those comments aside in a folder and refer back to them, in case someone else makes a similar observation.
  • Thank your readers! Beta reading takes time away from writing, so it’s very important to acknowledge the time and effort your readers put in.

Beta reading is not only a great way to get feedback, but also an excellent way to branch out and make friends among the writing community. Some of the strongest champions of my work are writers who have read and enjoyed it!

Do you use beta readers for your work? If so, where have you found them?

* * *

Carla Luna Cullen is a YA and NA writer who lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two teenagers. In her pre-kids existence, she worked as an archaeologist on projects in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. When not writing or reading, she spends time hanging out with her children and trying to keep up with their technology. She also loves baking, listening to Broadway showtunes, watching movies, and going for long walks, where she plots diabolical ways to torment her characters.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Subgenres: It's All Good

by Lynn Lovegreen

I love chocolate, and my favorite treat for finishing a draft or other milestone is a bar of dark chocolate. But sometimes I’m in the mood for a peanut butter cup, or milk chocolate, or a mocha.  Many of us do the same with our reading habits. There may be one kind of book we read most often, but we like a change now and then. New Adult (NA) romance allows you to do that too.

Most NA books I’ve seen are contemporary, and most of those are set in cities and college campuses. They are great reads, and that setting will be a perennial favorite. But there are emerging subgenres of NA romance that are fun, too. Here are a few examples of novels and novellas just to give you an idea:

Drip Drop Teardrop by Samantha Young (novella)
Persephone's Orchard by Molly Ringle

Worth Her Weight in Gold (Gold Rush Series #1) by Lynn Lovegreen (novella) (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)
Come Back by Melissa Maygrove

So how can these be NA? Because they are true to NA themes.  As the popular site NA Alley states (at, 
“We view New Adult fiction (NA) as a category of literature—meaning, it gives readers expectations, but it does not dictate genre-based criteria. Typically, a novel is considered NA if it encompasses the transition between adolescence and true adulthood. 

Protagonists generally fall between the ages of eighteen and twenty-six, though exceptions may apply. NA characters are often portrayed experiencing: college, living away from home for the first time, military deployment, apprenticeships, a first steady job, a first serious relationship, etc. 

Other terms for NA include: Upper YA, Crossover Fiction, and Mature YA.”

We all fit under that umbrella. In my opinion, we make NA stronger by including a variety of subgenres, whether it be setting, characters or other features that distinguish us. We all care about the same kinds of things, and explore similar themes. As readers try more NA, they will appreciate having more to choose from. So it’s all good. 

* * *

Lynn Lovegreen grew up in Alaska, and still lives there. She taught English for 20 years before retiring to make more time for writing. She enjoys reading, hanging out with friends and family, and hitting targets with a cowboy action shooting club. Her young adult historical romances are set in the Alaska Gold Rush, a great time for drama, romance, and independent characters.

See her website at You can also find her on Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Geeking Out! How I Started Writing

by Wendy Bennet

I always wonder how people got their start in writing. Where did the passion come from? What did others write when they started?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading or writing. Not to say the writing was good, mind you. I started writing poetry because I loved to read poetry. Probably why I went on to get my Bachelor of Science in English with a Concentration in Creative Writing and an Emphasis in Poetry (Yes, that's the full title because I'm a geek). Here is an example of an early (but not earliest) poem.

I’m assuming my work got better, because I did pretty well in my program. :)

My original career goal was to be a hockey beat writer at a newspaper. Preferably a newspaper in Detroit, so I could write about my beloved Detroit Red Wings. My earliest writing was articles about hockey in general, and the Wings in particular. I watched or listened to every game I could (even the French radio broadcasts of Montreal games). I wrote articles about issues and players that were of interest to me. I kept stats on EVERY game...

^^stats notebook circa 1988^^

^^stats notebooks in the early 90's^^

After 20+ years, I am revealing my inner geek...on the Internet.

Those original articles gave me a great idea! Write articles, summarize scores around the NHL and record it on a cassette! And with that - my Hockey Center Broadcasts were born. 

I feel really bad for my uncle who had to listen to these taped broadcasts. I don’t know if he really did, or if he just told me he did - and I don’t need to know. It was the fun of writing, recording and having the guts to hand it over to let someone listen.

I still get puppy-peeing-on-the-floor-giddy with excitement about the writing. There’s a thrill about creating characters and writing scenes. Why is giving it to someone to read so difficult now, when years ago I was begging for the attention?

Because my uncle was a safe environment. I knew he wasn’t going to tell me how bad they were - and they were bad! >.< But putting myself out there now isn’t a safe environment. It’s going to be rejection and criticism. I've developed a tough skin since my childhood years. Not saying it will be fun, but it will help me learn the craft and get better at doing what I have always loved to do. And that’s the point, right?

Geeking out on hockey is how I got my start. How did you get yours?

* * *

Wendy Bennetta proud Detroit native, is a NA writer who fell in love with reading, writing and hockey all before she became a teenager. She did not, however, fall in love with snow. So after graduating with an English degree from Central Michigan University, she moved to the warmth of North Carolina for the remainder of her winters.

Wendy spends her days chasing after her two, high-energy sons and writing things she wants to read. When she’s not chasing her crazy kids or pecking away at her laptop, she enjoys reading, watching her beloved Detroit Red Wings, and rocking out at concerts with her husband.

She is currently working on her first novel, a contemporary New Adult romance featuring a hot hockey player hero.

Tweet her:
Be her friend:
Stop by her website & blog:

Friday, May 9, 2014

Amazon Gift Card Winner

Congratulations to Janette (@jderucki) who is our lucky Amazon Gift Card winner! We'd also like to thank everyone who participated and appreciate all the support and kind words on the new blog. It is greatly appreciated!