just a girl trying to find her place

read: five books to get cozy with this winter

I was at a loss for what to post today and since I’m trying to be better about blogging more regularly, I’m trying to have fresh content Monday-Friday. I did a quick Google search for post ideas and stumbled on this one. I know it’s not winter yet, but my holiday break from school will be here in about five weeks and while I will have plenty of work to do, I plan on spending some cozy evenings in bed catching up on my reading. These are five books I’m looking forward to reading this winter. What are you looking forward to reading as we head into the cooler months?

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this is reno: uber: what’s at stake

New-Logo-Vertical-DarkIn cities like New York and San Francisco (and major metro areas around the world), Uber is a staple. It’s how people move from Point A to Point B in major cities where cars aren’t as common.

Read the rest at This Is Reno.

review: wired for story

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Wired for Story | Lisa Cron | Ten Speed Press | 5 stars

We are psychologically wired to enjoy stories. It’s inherent in our nature to get lost in a good book, but why? Lisa Cron answers that question and more in Wired for Story. Each chapter starts off with a cognitive secret and a story secret related to the cognitive secret. For example, in chapter 1, the cognitive secret is “we think in story, which allows us to envision the future.” The story secret is “from the very first sentence, the reader must want to know what happens next.”

As writers we have to figure out what first draws a reader in, and then, what keeps them hooked until the last page. Everything that happens in the story must have a reason that moves the story forward. Writers can’t let the plot get too bogged down by back story or flashbacks, otherwise the reader will lose interest.

Cron does case studies and provides tons of examples throughout the book about how each of the story secrets work. We can’t just have things happen to the characters – it all has to flow in a natural order to move the story forward. The reader has to have a reason to stick around and find out why, for example, Debbie isn’t going to stay married to Aiden. It can’t just be because she woke up one morning bored with marriage. Or, it can, but it helps to have events that led to her waking up feeling that way.

At the end of each chapter, Cron offers a checkpoint, summarizing the highlights of the chapter. I really like books that have these summaries at the end of each chapters – it makes for a nice reference after I’ve finished reading the book.

The thing about Wired for Story is that it doesn’t matter what level of writer you are. Everyone can become better and this book is a great starting point. It gets into the nitty-gritty of why we’re so drawn to stories (it’s partly because we want to know how to handle a situation should we ever come across it).

Readers want to feel what the characters are feeling, experience vicariously what the characters are experiencing, and for most people, story is the way to do this. It’s safe, we don’t have to invest a lot in it, and we can get out whenever we feel uncomfortable. But my takeaway is this: the whole point is to feel uncomfortable because we’re experiencing things we might not ever (or ever want to) experience in our actual lives. But in the story world, we can go deep, knowing our exit is simply closing the book.

The psychological aspects of the book are fascinating. Cron doesn’t talk down to her readers, but presents the cognitive information in a way that is understandable to anyone. She talked to several psychologists and people who study cognitive behavior, and she quotes them often. I thought maybe she relied a little too heavily on quoting these experts. I would have liked to read her take on what they had to say, but it’s also a lot of information to handle, so quoting them directly was a way to ensure she didn’t confuse the reader with misinformation.

Cron is a proponent of plotting the story before you begin writing. She says it doesn’t matter if you don’t stick to the plot, but she advocates for having a general idea of where things are going to go. For a pantser like me, this is difficult. I’m not a fan of writing outlines, although I tend to reverse outline, after I’ve written the story. I also go back and take chapter by chapter notes when I’m revising a first draft. Everyone has a different method and no method is right or wrong. It’s a matter of what works for you and helps you get the story down on paper, because really, that’s the most important thing – getting the story written.

Wired for Story is a book I will keep in my personal library and refer to often, especially as I’m revising. It offers story questions to be asked throughout the writing process, so even if you’re not plotting your novel from start to finish before you begin writing, you can go back and make sure you’ve covered everything.

Disclaimer: Wired for Story was purchased for me through the University of Nevada, Reno Writing Center. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated in any way for my review.

interview: jeanne bogino

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Jeanne Bogino, author of the Rock Angel series, wasn’t even aware her book had been pitched to agents when she received a text of all things telling her it was going to be published. But more on that later. I had the chance to ask Bogino a few questions as part of the BookSparks PR Fall Reading Challenge.

Brianna Soloski: What made you decide to become a writer?

Jeanne Bogino: I always wanted to be a writer. When I was a little kid reading picture books, I planned to write and illustrate children’s books. When I started reading serial chapter books, I figured I would be the next Julie Campbell (loved those Trixie Belden mysteries!) When I joined drama club I began writing plays, then spent my teenage years writing poetry. I always wrote, though, in one form or another.

Brianna: Who or what inspired Rock Angel?

Jeanne: Rock Angel is, at its core, a Cinderella story. My modern-day Ella Cinders isn’t a princess, though, she’s a rock star. Her Prince Charming is a hot, womanizing keyboard player. Her glass slipper? A guitar. But contemporary Cinderella can’t sit around waiting to be rescued by the prince. She’s got to be badass enough to rescue herself and that’s what Shan’s journey is all about.

Brianna: What is your writing process like? Are you a plotter or do you wing it?

Jeanne: I’m a total winger! There has to be some degree of planning when I’m working on a novel, but most of that takes place in my head. Writing is a very organic process to me – I like to let my characters take the story where they will. So far they haven’t disappointed me.

Brianna: Do you have any advice for upcoming writers?

Jeanne: Write ugly. Write stupid. Write. That was the advice given to me by my writing mentor,  Sonia Pilcer, and I have found it to be profoundly true. Writing needs to be woven into the fabric of an author’s life and that can only happen when you do it every day. But nobody can write great stuff every day, you’d make yourself crazy trying. So you just write. Ugly or stupid is fine, as long as it’s writing.

Brianna: Do you have any weird writing rituals?

Jeanne: Yes, but it’s really a weird editing ritual. When I’m working on a first draft, I can’t have any distractions – I need to be able to focus exclusively on what I’m writing. I am a notorious over-writer, though (Rock Angel started out as a thousand page manuscript) so I always wind up with a lot of cutting to do. I keep an TV and VCR in the corner of my home office and, when I’m cutting, I always have a horror movie playing. I don’t even watch it, it’s just providing background noise. It’s always when I’m cutting, though, and it’s always horror. Weird enough for you?

Brianna: Are you working on any more books in the Rock Angel series? Any other stand-alone stories?

Jeanne: Yes, definitely. I’m currently working on Angel on High, which is Book II of the Rock Angel series. I’m planning a trilogy, or perhaps 4 books. I also have two partially completed novels languishing on my computer, Summer Daze and Touch, that I’ll certainly finish one day.

Brianna: What’s it like being a debut author?

Jeanne: Very overwhelming. Just before Rock Angel’s publication date, a good friend who is herself an author told me, “Your book launch is like a wedding, only it’s just you.” Boy, was she right! The Rock Angel launch was amazing – more than 120 people in attendance – and It’s been a flurry of reviews, interviews and social media ever since. My head is spinning from it, but it’s great.

Brianna: Where were you when you received the call (or email) Rock Angel was going to be published?

Jeanne: It was a ping! I was in my car when the text came. Soon as I stopped for a red light I checked my phone and saw that it said “Wendy (Prashanti’s CEO) wants to see your book.” The text was from my good friend Gina Coleman, who had read the manuscript years earlier. She’s now the marketing director of Prashanti Press. She pitched Rock Angel to them without my knowledge. I had literally nothing to do with it – didn’t even know the book was being considered. That ping was my wake up call. It’s my own Cinderella story, really.

Thank you, Jeanne, for taking time to answer my questions.

Disclaimer: I participated in this interview with BookSparks PR. I was given all of the materials but no other compensation was provided.

interview: lorie langdon and carey corp

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Lorie Langdon and Carey Corp met at a local writer’s group meeting and became friends almost immediately. Having just finished solo projects, the conversation quickly turned to what they’d like to work on next. Langdon casually mentioned wanting to write a retelling of Brigadoon and was picking Corp’s brain about voice and technique. Somewhere along the line, the conversation took a detour to what is now the magical, mythical world of Doon, home of evil witches and magic spells, daring adventures and two unique best friends embarking on those adventures. The pair quickly realized the story was bigger than both of them and decided to team up.

I had the chance to ask Langdon and Corp a few questions thanks to the Fall Reading Challenge at BookSparks PR. I love interviewing authors, especially being one myself, because they have so much insight to provide. Everyone’s writing journey and path to publication is different making being an author one of the most unique careers to have.

Brianna Soloski: The idea of an enchanted land is appealing. How did you come up with idea for the Doon series?

Lorie Langdon: When I was sixteen I saw the musical Brigadoon and fell in love with the romantic tale of the village that only appears to the modern world once every hundred years. But one thing always bothered me about the original – during the time that the portal to the kingdom is closed, the people in Brigadoon sleep. Really? They sleep! I couldn’t stop thinking about what I could do with that hundred years…

Brianna: What was it like cowriting a book? Do you live in the same place?

Lorie: Much like our characters, we are opposite in a way that makes for a perfect balance. As writers, we each bring different technical strengths to the table. The actual process of writing with a co-author is fun and dynamic. Splitting responsibilities such as blogging, promotions, and social networking is a great blessing. But the biggest advantage is that you have someone who is equally invested. Someone you can call at midnight with a brilliant plot idea, who won’t curse you out and block your phone number. We live about an hour from each other and get together at least once a month.

Brianna: What’s your writing style? Are you a plotter or do you just wing it?

Carey Corp: Our style has changed a bit since with this series. When we started writing we were both hopeless pantsers (the technical term for writers who wing it). However, we needed to give our publisher a description of each book in the overall series. Now we plot the major plot turning points and pants our way from one to the next.

Brianna: Do you have any more books planned for the Doon series?

Lorie and Carey: As of now there is Doon, book 1 and Destined for Doon, book 2. There will be two more books in the series as well. So, as of now, there will be four books total.

Brianna: Who is your favorite character in the series?

Lorie: That’s a hard one because we have so many wonderful characters in Doon. My favorite changes based on what I’m working on at the moment. Right now, we are finishing up Book 3 and my current favorite is Jamie MacCrae. Jamie is a complex character, whose layers are slowly being revealed…even to me. In book one we see a crown prince who is tortured by what he wants for himself vs. what’s best for his kingdom. In book 2, he’s learning to let go of control and be more trusting. And in book 3, we get to see how he reacts to being thrown into situations outside his realm of familiarity. *Spoiler alert: He rocks it! Jamie has always been strong and noble, but I love that as his character grows, we get to see more of his sensitive side.

Carey: I’m partial to all our characters for different reasons. One of my most favorite to write is Fergus. I loved writing his quest to get a plaid tam (hat) with a yellow toorie (pompom). It’s a nod to the Jayne hat in Firefly.

Carey and Lorie, thanks so much for taking time out of your busy days to answer my questions.

Disclaimer: I participated in this interview with BookSparks PR. I was given all of the materials but no other compensation was provided.

spotlight: two bar mitzvahs

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Synopsis: Summer heats up in this third book in the No Weddings Series, where Cade Michaelson strives to balance his and Hannah Martin’s new relationship with the growing demands of his financial success. Waiting for Hannah has been the best and worst kind of torture. Now I can claim her as mine. We believe we’re done with the past and can move forward together. Hannah grows stronger than ever as she trusts in me—trusts in us. And when obstacles appear, she shows a surprising fierceness that rivals my own. However, all is not perfect in paradise. Things get chaotic while I try to juggle multiple businesses, an ex from hell, and a girlfriend I’d do anything to keep. And in the middle of the whirlwind, I recklessly think I can handle everything. But when all the madness is over, will I have everything I want—will I still have Hannah?

Buy the book: Amazon Kindle | Amazon Paperback

Disclaimer: I participated in this spotlight with InkSlinger PR. I was given all of the materials but no other compensation was provided.

interview: siobhan adcock

915eb-lWZQL._SL1500_With Halloween around the corner, it was fun to interview Siobhan Adcock about her debut and find out just why she thinks every first novel should be a ghost story. I have yet to write a ghost story and I’m working on novel number three, but I love a good ghost story.

Brianna Soloski: Why did you choose to write The Barter as a ghost story?

Siobhan Adcock: The original idea was sparked by a short story (“Differently,” in Alice Munro’s Friends of My Youth) in which a character is basically described as being willing to give up an hour of her child’s life for something she really wants. I was just really spooked by that frightening moment of clarity, and kept thinking about it and thinking about it…What kind of a choice is that? I ended up writing two stories inspired by that moment, Bridget’s and Rebecca’s, and the ghost came out of how terrifying that choice seems to me, how full of loss and regret in the way of the classic old-school ghost story. But I also think that choice is one that a lot of women recognize, in some form, from their own experiences.

Brianna: You’ve said every first novel should be a ghost story. Why? What is it about ghost stories that draws you to them?

Siobhan: Yes! Speaking entirely selfishly as a writer, one thing that’s great about writing a ghost story is that it’s almost impossible to hit a dead end, no pun intended. Every ghost story follows the same basic rising action: The ghost gets scarier and scarier and scarier until the story hits a moment of crisis, and then someone has to figure out what to do about the ghost, and then the story’s over. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. But in all seriousness, what I love best about good ghost stories is the way they open up to multiple interpretations: Is the ghost real? Is it something the main character is imagining? Why would this particular character feel haunted by this particular ghost? I love that each reader can claim a different answer to those questions and they’re all right.

Brianna: Where were you when you go the call/email that The Barter was going to be published? How did it feel?

Siobhan: I was actually on jury duty! During much of the submission process, when my agent was talking to editors about the book, I was serving on a case that was dragging on and on. While you’re in court, obviously, you can’t be responding to messages or checking your phone, so it felt a bit stressful to sit in the jury box knowing that something, who knew what, was happening out there with the book. I’d become friendly with many of my fellow jurors, because we’d all kind of bonded as the case wore on, and they were actually the first to hear about it when I got the message from my agent—before my husband, even before my mom. They were all really excited and lovely about it and we went out for lunch to celebrate. For me it’ll always be a great New York story: “That time I was on jury duty and my first novel sold and all these people who were basically strangers were so happy for me you’d think they wrote it too.”

Brianna: What’s your writing style? Are you a plotter or do you prefer to wing it?

Siobhan: I like to have what I think of a scene outline, which is just a list of action scenes that need to happen between Point A and Point B in the story, although that outline is always evolving as the scenes are written. My hat’s off to those who can wing it, but I really respect writers who can sit down and bang out a detailed outline. I think I’d like to be a detailed plotter, but I’m a little too undisciplined…or I’m too excited to just get writing, so I drop the outline mid-thought.

Brianna: Do you have any advice for budding writers?

Siobhan: Write every day—that’s what everybody says, and everybody says it for a reason. Writing every day is like practicing an instrument every day or running every day; it builds your muscles and your stamina and makes you better in ways you can’t always see until later. I’m a mom and I also have a pretty busy work life, but I tell myself I only have to commit to 15 minutes of writing every day, and that way I know I can always do it. And sometimes that 15 minutes is hard, and I close the laptop and feel grateful to be done, and then sometimes that 15 minutes turns into 2 hours.

Brianna: Are you working on any more books?

Siobhan: Right now I’m working on a novel that’s pretty different from this one. It’s a mystery set in a near-future version of this world, about a young veteran whose little sister has gone missing, and he gets into various kinds of serious trouble trying to find her. Structurally it’s pretty different too—I’m trying to write a novel that only moves forward in time, and does all its exposition and action with no flashbacks, like The Maltese Falcon.

Brianna: Just for fun: If you could go anywhere, past or future, where would it be and why?

Siobhan: New York in the 1940s and 1950s, the era that the novelist Dawn Powell wrote about, when Staten Island was farmland and the East Village was dangerous. Like a lot of people who’ve lived in New York for a while, I love peeling back the layers of this city’s history—you live with daily reminders of that history in the architecture, in the ghost ads on the sides of buildings, even in the subway. So, either that era, or else I’d like to go into the future, when they invent the free teleport, so I can travel to be with my family and friends more often.

Disclaimer: I participated in this interview with BookSparks PR. I was given all of the materials but no other compensation was provided.


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