Discussion: Your Favorite Part(s) of Being a Writer

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With all the struggles involved in being a writer, many of which I openly discuss here, sometimes it's nice to stop and think about my favorite parts of my chosen career.

I love:

  • that moment while first drafting when the story takes over and everything starts to flow.
  • that moment while revising when your changes come together and the manuscript becomes better than you ever expected.
  • that my job is to make up stories. 
  • diving into a new story and falling in love with characters and words all over again.
  • that daydreaming (about stories) is totally working.
  • that reading is a job requirement.
  • seeing my book cover(s) for the first time.
  • making fun publishing announcements. 
  • that feeling of holding your book/manuscript and knowing these words are mine
  • meeting and talking to other writers, both online and IRL.
  • meeting readers.
  • the welcoming nature of 97% of the bookish community.
  • writing "THE END" at the end of a manuscript.

What are some of your favorite parts of being a writer? 

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What's your favorite part of being a writer? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

On Titling Manuscripts

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So a while ago when I asked what people would like me to blog about, someone suggested I do a post on the process for coming up with Beyond the Red's title. I thought about this for a while, and also wanted to expand it to the sequels so had to wait for that announcement to be made, and then it was, so here we are.


It's no secret than I am not a huge fan of the titling process. I've mentioned before that coming up with Beyond the Red's title was a struggle, to say the least—and one that ultimately my CP saved me from by coming up with the basis that then became Beyond the Red. I've talked about the strategy she used to help me in this vlog.

But once upon a time, Beyond the Red's first title was Slave & Sira. This was not a great title for many reasons—something I already knew when I was querying and thus was zero percent surprised when my now-agent said we'd be changing the title—not the least of which was because "Sira" is not an English word and most people have no idea what a Sira is. So. You know. That. And other things.

For a while I went back and forth with my agent and her team with different title ideas, many of which came close but didn't stick. Where the Stars Don't Reach almost became the new title until Beyond the Red won out in the end—something I'm now very happy about because I do love my title and the cover that fits it beautifully.

Despite all of my title woes, however, I found coming up with sequel titles way more enjoyable. With Beyond the Red set in stone, I had a frame to work within. I knew I wanted to continue using colors, partially to fit the frame and partially because colors actually play a decently important role in the series. From there, it was a matter of deciding what colors, and what adjectives or verbs I wanted to use, and then play around with the order while keeping in mind the overall arc for the series.

If I remember correctly, I came up with Into the Black and The Rising Gold in the same sitting—way faster than the multi-week brainstorming hell it took to come up with Beyond the Red. All in all, I'm really happy with titles I have, and while brainstorming unrelated manuscript titles still hasn't become any easier (I've been using hashtag titles like #YAFantasyWIP, #illvigilanteenbyWIP and #MagicMurderMayhem to talk about WIPs until I have a real title I use) the end result has been pretty great so far. :)

How do you come up with manuscript titles? 

Twitter-sized bites:
How do you come up with manuscript titles? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet
Author @Ava_Jae talks naming her series and the struggle of titling books. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: 4 Productivity Tips

Want to be more productive but don't know where to start? Today I'm sharing my top four productivity tips—also known as how to avoid procrastinating. :)


What tips do you have for increasing productivity?

Twitter-sized bite: 
Want to be more productive but don't know where to start? @Ava_Jae vlogs her top four productivity tips. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Feature #25

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We are exactly one week from August! And so the time is here again, to critique another first page here on Writability. Yay! 

As per usual, I'll start by posting the full first 250 excerpt, after which I'll share my overall thoughts, then my redline critique. I encourage you guys to share your own thoughts and critiques in the comments (because I'm one person with one opinion!), as long as it's polite, thoughtful, and constructive. Any rude or mean comments will be unceremoniously deleted.

Let's do this thing. 


Genre/Category: YA Historical Fantasy

First 250 words: 

"Ailis slipped out from the glow of the street lamp into the shadows of the porch. Shivering from the cold, she peered down the lonely alley. Ivy hung low over the wooden eaves, offering concealment from the road, and from the British armored truck that was parked in front of the flats across the drive. She hadn’t expected the enemy’s presence so near. From her orders, she knew Pedlar’s Cross was occupied, but not that the Tommies were taking billets on the same street as her dispatch. 
She took a deep breath and tried not to tremble, but to hold back the fear. Her Mam had cautioned that this work was not for young people. She said the risks were too high and her daughter had no business endangering her life like the men do. Ailis refused to hear of it, yet her Mam’s voice echoed in her ears, even though she was miles from home. 
'You can’t imagine what they’d do to you, Ailis. If they catch you they’d be shearing the wool clean off your head, fixing you for a hanging,' she had said. 
It didn’t matter though. Ailis was going to defend her homeland alongside her da, and alongside the man she loved, too. She tapped on the door with the brass knocker as quietly as she could. Three taps, silence, and two taps. 
She wrung her hands, both to keep them warm and to settle her nerves. Being seen outside this late at night was a crime."

Wow! So no question about it, this is a great opening. We've got instant conflict, some beautiful imagery, and tons of tension right off the bat. Upon a first glance, I'm very impressed and definitely want to read more. :)

Now for the in-line notes.

"Ailis slipped out from under the glow of the street lamp into the shadows of the porch. Beautiful opening imagery. Shivering from the cold, she peered down the lonely alley. I'm cutting "from the cold" to condense—and also given her situation, she's probably pretty afraid too. Ivy hung low over the wooden eaves, offering concealingment her from the road, and from the British armored truck that was parked in front of the flats across the drive. All adjustments made to condense. She hadn’t expected the enemy’s presence so near. From hHer orders, she knew said Pedlar’s Cross was occupied, but not that the Tommies were taking billets on the same street as her dispatch. Adjusted to remove filtering ("she knew").
She took a deep breath and tried not to tremble, but to hold back the fear. The fear bit of the sentence is unnecessary, IMO. The trembling/deep breath plus the following thoughts already shows her fear well. :) Her Mam had cautioned that this work wasno't for young people. She said the risks were too high and her daughter had no business endangering her life like the men do. Ailis refused to hear of it, yet her Mam’s voice echoed in her ears, even though she was miles from home. Great (and nicely placed) detail.
'You can’t imagine what they’d do to you, Ailis. If they catch you they’d be shearing the wool clean off your head, fixing you for a hanging,' she had said. Fantastic world building and setting up of stakes here.
It didn’t matter though. Ailis was going to defend her homeland alongside her da, and alongside the man she loved, too. More nicely placed information. She tapped on the door with the brass knocker as quietly as she could. Three taps, silence, and two taps. And another nice detail—great job. :)
She wrung her hands, both to keep them warm and to settle her nerves. Being seen outside this late at night was a crime." Great world building, tension, stakes, everything.

So in case it wasn't obvious in my notes, I love this one. The world building is really well done, the details are fantastic, I can picture everything, and I need more! Most of my notes are just focused on condensing to make it read even more smoothly, and I would 100% keep reading if I saw this in the slush. Also, I don't know if Dianne plans to enter #PitchWars, but if not, you should definitely do that thing, Dianne. :)

I hope that helps! Thanks for sharing your first 250 with us, Dianne!

Would you like to be featured in a Fixing the First Page Feature? Keep an eye out for the next critique giveaway in August!

Twitter-sized bite:
.@Ava_Jae talks condensing, great world building and more in the 25th Fixing the First Page critique. (Click to tweet)

Discussion: YA Anthologies

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So I'm in the middle of reading my first ever YA anthology (Slasher Girls and Monster Boys edited by April Genevieve Tucholke), which I'm really enjoying. It's been a while since I've really sat down with some short stories (the last I read were for class) and more than that it's the first time I can remember that I actually picked up some short stories for pleasure reading. And so far, at least, it's been a great decision.

I've noticed YA anthologies have slowly become more popular as of late, from A Tyranny of Petticoats to Slasher Girls and probably many others I'm just forgetting about right now. And it makes sense—it allows a bunch of kick-ass authors to collaborate into one book with a bunch of awesome stories. It also makes for easy bite-size reading, because you can read a story in a sitting, which generally doesn't take too long.

In Slasher Girls, the stories so far have been about twenty to thirty pages each, and it's been a good experience seeing the arc of a story laid out and completed quickly (probably would be a good writing exercise too!). All in all, it's been an interesting experience so far, and I think I'll probably want to do it again, so I'll have to keep an eye out for more anthologies. So I'm curious—have any of you read any YA anthologies? And did you like them? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
Do you enjoy YA anthologies? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Winner #25!

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Another quick Thursday post to announce the winner of the twenty-fifth fixing the first page feature giveaway!


And the twenty-fifth winner is…


Yay! Congratulations, Dianne!

Thank you to all you fabulous entrants! If you didn't win, as always, there will be another fixing the first page giveaway in August, so keep an eye out! :)

(Updated to reflect new winner after previous winner passed!)

How to Condense Without Losing Anything Useful

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It's not uncommon for writers to rely on filler words while writing—and especially while first drafting. From filter phrases to adverbs all over the place, drafts that aren't scrutinized to condense the writing are often full of words that unnecessarily clog up the writing.

Good news is while this is totally not something you should worry about while first drafting (seriously), when the time comes to take care of this issue, it's relatively easy to do. Time-consuming and painstaking, yes, but thankfully not too difficult to do.

To make it even easier, however, I've decided to add to my how to make cuts without losing anything useful post with more easy-to-remove words to look out for.

  1. Starts/begins to. This is actually a tip I picked up from my editor, and it's a good one—9/10 times when you preface an action with "starts to" or "begins to" you don't need that phrase. Just by describing the action, the readers assume it's just started unless otherwise stated. 

  2. Immediately/without warning. Like "suddenly" these words are usually unnecessary. I'll refer you to the other post for a longer explanation. 

  3. That. I'm not going to say you never need "that", but oftentimes I find "that" is super overused. In sentences like "She said that I should go," for example, removing the "that" improves the flow and we don't lose anything by cutting it. 

  4. Up/Down. For these two I only mean in very specific cases: sitting up/down, standing up/down, etc. In those cases, the up/down is unnecessary. 

  5. Dialogue + action tag. I see this a lot, and tend to do this a lot when first drafting and just slapping words down, but when you have a dialogue tag and an action tag, you usually only need one—and oftentimes I go with the action tag because it's more visual (although there are exceptions, of course). So, for example: "'Where've you been?' he said, scowling" could be condensed to "'Where've you been?' He scowled." 

  6. -ly adverbs. One of my last condensing steps is to go through and do a search for "ly" to cut down on my adverbs. While I definitely don't recommend removing all of them (adverbs can be useful!), writers in general tend to use them more than necessary, so it can be good to go through and do a quick sweep. 

So those are some words I look out for when condensing my writing—what phrases or words would you add to the list? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
Need to lower your word count but not sure where to start? @Ava_Jae shares six easy condensing tips. (Click to tweet)
Do you tend toward wordiness? @Ava_Jae shares six ways to condense your writing. #edittip (Click to tweet)

Vlog: About My Editing Services

Someone asked, so I'm answering. Today I'm talking about my editing services and why you may want to work with a freelance editor.


Would you ever consider working with a freelance editor? Why or why not?

Twitter-sized bite: 
Looking for a freelance editor? @Ava_Jae vlogs abt her editing services & why working with an editor may help. (Click to tweet)

How to Get Your Characters to Connect

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So I've been doing a lot of editing lately, while also first drafting and reading, which means I've been thinking a lot about characters. Specifically, how to spark that magical character-reader connections.

Oftentimes, when writers are querying, they'll hear from agents or editors that the reader just didn't connect with their work. There can be a million reasons for this, but when the connection is missing from your characters, I've found there's often a reason you can point to directly in the manuscript, and many times that reason is a lack of depth in the POV.

When reading, the best books don't make you feel like you're reading about someone, they make you feel as though you're experiencing whatever the characters are experiencing. You feel their pain, you know their emotions, you hear their thoughts, you see what they see and smell what they smell and feel what they feel. Of course, you aren't literally experiencing everything, but a great book will make the connection feel so deep it's almost as if you are.

So how do you accomplish that with your characters? There are a few keys you can focus on to really deepen that connection:

  • Show emotion. I wrote a whole blog post on writing emotion effectively and the difference between telling and showing emotion, but the short version is this: every time you see a named emotion ("I was so angry," "he looked sad," etc.) in your WIP, stop and think about how you can rewrite it without naming that emotion. Think about what that emotion makes your character feel physically, how it affects their thoughts, and actions. Think about what it feels like to experience that emotion— and rather than naming it, describe it instead and let the readers put together the pieces. (P.S.: A truly excellent resource that makes this a billion times easier is The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi—I can't recommend it enough!)

  • Cut down on filtering. Similarly, I've also already written a blog post on how to (and why you should) remove filter phrases, but I'll do a quick summary here: filtering is a form of telling, and appears in phrases like "I thought," "I remembered," "I saw," "I smelled," "I felt," etc. It's often unnecessary and adds a layer of distance between the reader and the character because you're filtering what your character is experiencing through writer-speak. By removing the phrases whenever possible and just describing your characters experiences instead, the writing becomes more immediate and helps to establish that sense of closeness to the POV character(s). 

  • Get us in your POV character's head. What are your characters thinking? Why do they make decisions the way they do? How do they come to one conclusion or another? In limited third or first person POV, readers should know what your POV character is thinking (and feeling) at all times. Even if readers disagree with your character's reasoning for one decision or another, they should see your character's thought process there on the page, so they never have to stop and ask themselves, "but why did they do that?" This often requires slowing down while writing to think about what your characters are thinking or feeling as the events of their story happens—but this is vital to getting your readers to feel as though they really understand your characters. 

So those are my top getting-your-characters-to-connect tips! Now I want to hear from you: what gets you to connect to characters in books you read? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Having trouble getting readers to connect to your characters? @Ava_Jae shares some connection-forging tips. (Click to tweet)  
How do you get your characters to connect to readers? Author @Ava_Jae shares some tips. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Giveaway #25!

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So incredibly, we've hit July's halfway point and August is on it's way, which means it's REALLY FRIGGIN' HOT. (Seriously, I'm used to balmy, cool summers in my state and this year has been The Worst.)

But in much happier news, it also means it's time for the twenty-fifth Fixing the First Page feature!

For those who’ve missed before, the Fixing the First Page features is a public first 250 word critique. Using the lovely rafflecopter widget, anyone interested in winning a PUBLIC (as in, featured in a post on this blog) first page critique can enter.

For an example of what this critique will look like, here's the last Fixing the First Page post.


  • ONLY the first 250 words will be critiqued (up to finishing the sentence). If you win and send me more, I will crop it myself. No exceptions.

  • ONLY the first page. I don’t want 250 random words from your manuscript, or from chapter 3. If you win the critique and send me anything other than the first 250 words of your manuscript, I will choose someone else.

  • I will actually critique it. Here. On the blog. I will say things as nicely as I can, but I do tend to be a little blunt. If you’re not sure you can handle a public critique, then you may want to take some time to think about it before you enter.

  • Genre restrictions. I'm most experienced with YA & NA, but I will still accept MG and Adult. HOWEVER. If your first page has any erotic content on it, I ask that you don’t enter. I want to be able to post the critique and the first 250 in its entirety without making anyone uncomfortable, and if you win and you enter a page with erotic content, I will choose someone else.

  • You must have your first page ready. Should you win, you need to be able to submit your first page within 48 hours of my contacting you to let you know you won. If 48 hours pass and I haven’t heard from you, again, I will choose someone else.

  • You’ll get the most out of this if it isn’t a first draft. Obviously, I have no way of knowing if you’re handing me a first draft (though I will probably suspect because it’s usually not that difficult to tell). I won’t refuse your page if it’s a first draft, but you should know that this critique will likely be of more use if you’ve already had your betas/CPs look over it. Why? Because if you don’t, the critique I give you will probably contain a lot of notes that your betas & CPs could have/would have told you.

  • There will not be a round 2 (unless you win again in a future contest). I hate to have to say this, but if you win a critique, it’s NOT an invitation to send me a bunch of your revisions. I wish I had the time available to be able to look at revisions, but sadly, I don’t. If you try to break this rule, I will nicely say no, and also remember to choose someone else should you win a second contest. Which would make me sad. :(

So that’s it! If you’re okay with all of the above and would like to enter to be the twenty-second public critique on Writability, do the thing with the rafflecopter widget below. You have until Wednesday, July 20 at 11:59 EST to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Current Impending TBR

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So I've been doing pretty well with my reading goal this year so far. I've currently read 39 books in 2016 (I'm aiming for 70), which puts me three books ahead of schedule. Between the library, ARCs, my owned TBR and books I can't help but purchase, I always have an abundance of books on hand—it's just a matter of deciding what to read next.

Just the other day I finished The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, so currently, the next couple books I plan to read include:
  1. The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Choksi
  2. The Last Leaves Falling by Fox Benwell (w/a Sarah Benwell)
  3. Sekret by Lindsay Smith
  4. Skandal by Lindsay Smith
  5. Fast Connection by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassel
  6. ???
I put question marks at number six, because I don't know what I'll pick up from the library when I return my library books, which is kind of half the fun of going to the library. I have my eye on Denton's Little Deathdate, but whether or not I get it will depend on if I happen to find it that day.

And of course, this isn't set in stone, but I just started The Star-Touched Queen shortly after I wrote this post (Monday), and I've been dying to finally read The Last Leaves Falling and Sekret and Skandal forever, and Fast Connection just released so I'm psyched about that too, which means those will likely be my next picks...but we'll see what happens. 

All of this is to say reading is fun and talking about books is fun, so now I'm going to ask you guys: what books are on your imminent TBR list?

Twitter-sized bite: 
What books are on your (very) soon-to-read TBR list? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: More BEYOND THE RED Books!

I've posted about it here, but I hadn't yet on my YouTube channel, bookishpixie, so here it is. The announcement vlog. And the last you'll hear about the book deal this week. :)


Twitter-sized bite: 
ICYMI: @Ava_Jae vlogs her book deal news about BEYOND THE RED's newly announced sequels! (Click to tweet)

On (Finally) Drafting a Sequel

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So now that the news is out and I've shared my delight and excitement on just about every platform I have, I can finally talk about writing sequels.

Because for the first time since 2007 when I realized partway through a draft for a sequel for my very first manuscript that said manuscript wasn't going to get published (and good thing), I'm writing a sequel. Have been writing one, actually, since last month.

I've been calling it WIPThing, because until this week I couldn't actually publicly say I was writing a sequel for Beyond the Red, as the publication announcement for books two and three wasn't up yet. But now it is! So I can talk about what's it's been like to write a sequel thus far, because I am doing that thing.

I'd heard from many writers about the struggles involved in writing a sequel. There's a lot more pressure, as readers are expecting certain things after reading the first book, plus the pressure of any second book sequel or not to perform as well or better than before, plus the trials of writing a book at all, plus deadlines, so yeah, traditionally, sequel-writing has been known to be a difficult thing for writers.

I knew this very well. And I fully expected it for myself.

Plotting, as usual, was difficult. It helped that I already had a basic idea of how things would go and had been thinking about it since, oh, 2013 or so, but actually working out the details of this happens and that happens followed by this thing then this has always been difficult for me, and this time didn't prove any differently. Plus I had the added pressure of knowing if what I plotted wasn't good enough, my publisher might not want to publish it, so that complicated matters.

Eventually came time to write the first two chapters for the proposal my agent would submit to my publisher. I remember sitting at my computer, looking at the word sprint timer with a blank page in front of me, and that was the moment where I felt that pressure. Where I knew whatever I wrote had to be really good or it wouldn't get picked up. Slowly, I started writing, and I forced myself not to worry about the quality just yet (because revisions, I knew, would be in a few days, but not right now), and I wrote.

And you know? While I was scared and while I did feel the pressure, it also felt really exciting. Because I'd been dying to write this sequel for so long, and now I could finally write it. Or write two chapters of it, anyway.

After the two chapters were done, then came time to revise, trade with critique partners, revise, trade with betas, revise and send it off to my agent. There were a few more revisions after that, at which point I had to put it away and wait for news and focus on something else.

Then in June I got the thumbs up as well as a deadline and the real pressure began. I started drafting, and it was slow at first— my word counts were lower than I liked, but I was slogging through. And even though my daily sprints were taking longer than I wanted, I was still really excited because I was writing a sequel. And I was having a lot of fun doing it.

Eventually, I hit my stride. I'm now about 61k in, and I've been keeping to my 2k/day goal. Originally I'd planned for this first draft to be around 70k, but my math projections (yes, I know, math) comparing my current word count to the number of scenes I've completed and the number of scenes I have left is projecting the first draft will probably be closer to 86k, which means I may not be done with the first draft by this weekend as I'd originally hoped, but that's okay because I gave myself some wiggle room. But we'll see what happens—I may very well breeze through some scenes with a lower than average word count and finish closer to 70k after all. Or not. (UPDATE: As of this morning I have upped my word count goal to 85k, which is a more realistic expectation.)

As I've been writing, I've been making mental notes about what I'll need to add in revisions. I write drafts sparsely, often adding an average of 20k words in revisions, so knowing that I've missed some things is fine at this stage. But the more I write, the more I've fallen in love with my characters more and more, and the more I've loved returning to this world with deserts and monarchs and aliens and humans. And it's been so fun to deepen the world, to learn new things about the territories and expand upon what I built in Beyond the Red.

I'm not done with the first draft, not yet, but I'm proud of it already. It's felt good to finally work on this book that I hoped I'd be able to write for so long. It's felt amazing to reach this milestone, and I'm so delighted I'll get to do it again next year with book three, too.

I know there will be angsty days in the future, days where the pressure feels heavier and scarier and I'm not so sure about what I'm doing. But today I couldn't be happier, and in terms of first drafts, this one has gone pretty smoothly so far.

Sequels are scary, but being able to finally write a book I've been hoping I'd be able to write for over two years is an amazing amazing thing.

Have you ever written a sequel? Do you plan to? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
On first drafting and writing a sequel for the first time, @Ava_Jae shares her thoughts. (Click to tweet)

Book Review: THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE by Patrick Ness

Photo credit: Goodreads
Note: ICYMI, I got the thumbs up to share some pretty amazing Beyond the Red news yesterday. :)

So forever ago, a friend of mine DMed me on Twitter about this ARC she was reading that had a lot of anxiety rep and she was curious to see if I'd read it yet. I hadn't, but I very much respected her recommendation so I added the book, which I was already curious about anyway, to my TBR. The book eventually published, and for a long time I didn't get around to reading it, partially because every time I read the sample I just...wasn't that into it for whatever reason? But then I saw it in the library, and after remembering how few books I'd read with neuroatypical rep this year, I grabbed it.

I'm glad I did, because my friend was right and I really loved The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness. But as usual, before I say why, here's the Goodreads summary:

"What if you aren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death? 
What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again. 
Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.
Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions. 
Award-winning writer Patrick Ness’s bold and irreverent novel powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable."

So right from the start I thought the premise of writing about the regular people in a Chosen One story was pretty brilliant—and it turned out even better than I'd hoped. Ness doesn't just play with the Chosen One trope—he pokes fun at sooo many YA stereotypes, from the Chosen Ones having "cool" names, to the ridiculousness of some of the romantic plots, to Chosen One deaths and brave sacrifices, etc. etc. There were a lot of moments that made me actually laugh out loud, and it gave the whole book a really playful tone that I very much appreciated.

Then, of course, there's the anxiety rep. The protagonist, Mike, has OCD, and while my anxiety never pushed me into endless loops like his (though I am familiar with loops, and especially familiar with feeling the need to wash my hands "one more time"), there was a lot that felt really familiar and real while I was reading. Doubly so because like Mike, I once worked in a restaurant at the height of my anxiety breakdown and would wash my hands so many times there I'd leave with dry, cracked hands. This is just one example. I took pictures of other lines that really resonated with me, but point is, at least to me, the anxiety rep felt pretty solid. So solid that after the first night of reading I had to put the book down and take a deep breath because it was almost triggering. Of course YMMV, but for me, at least, the representation rang true.

So all that said, I really appreciated seeing some real, respectful anxiety/OCD rep on the page. The cast of characters is also super diverse, which was an especially great bonus.

All in all, I really enjoyed this one and would totally recommend it to those looking for a fun read with some neuroatypical rep. I will caution, though, that if you're likely to be triggered by vivid anxiety rep, you may want to skip this one or go in with eyes open at least. But now I'm going to have to read more Patrick Ness books because this was excellent.

Diversity note: The protagonist, Mike, has OCD. Other prominent characters include his sister, who has an eating disorder (but is in recovery), his friend and love interest who is Black, and his best friend who is gay.

Twitter-sized bites:
.@Ava_Jae gives⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️to Patrick Ness's THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE. Is this quirky YA w/OCD rep on your TBR? (Click to tweet)

We know the Chosen Ones, but what abt everyone else? Try Patrick Ness's THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE. (Click to tweet)


So back in 2012 I wrote this blog post on why I've yet to write a sequel, in which I said, "I like to think of writing a sequel as a reward, or a celebration of sorts. You see, I've made this unwritten pact with myself that I won't write a sequel until I've sold a book, so the ability to write a series has, in a sense, become a sort of milestone for me."

I kept this unwritten pact with myself for years. And then last month I got some really amazing news that I've been sitting on impatiently but now I can FINALLY share it and I'm SO EXCITED because:

In case you can't read it! It says!

"Ava Jae's INTO THE BLACK and THE RISING GOLD, the second and third book in the BEYOND THE RED trilogy, wherein an heir to the world throne is abducted by a rebel group of redbloods who won't release him until he swears to help them overthrow the very government he's inheriting, forcing an alien ex-queen and a skilled prince-turned-bounty hunter to attempt to find him before it's too late for both the future king and his kingdom, to Nicole Frail, at Sky Pony Press, for publication in Fall 2017 and 2018, by Louise Fury at The Bent Agency (World). Foreign: Biagi Literary Management Film: The Kohner Agency" 


I'm feeling like


and also

Basically I'm really friggin' excited about it and I can't wait to share more of Kora and Eros's journey with everyone and fiiiinally be able to answer questions about sequels with YES, THERE WILL BE MORE I PROMISE.

Also I guess now I can say the WIPThing I've been tweeting about first drafting is in fact Into the Black (book two!). And it's been so fun to write. I'm really, really psyched about it and doubly so now that I can say you'll all be able to read it in Fall 2017. Next year! YAY! And you can add them both on Goodreads here and here!

So a million thanks to my agent Louise Fury and editor Nicole Frail for making this possible and also my CPs and betas who answered my call for quick edits when working on proposal stuff and damn, I am one happy camper. Thank you. 

And to every reader and reviewer—you guys made this possible too by supporting Red. Seriously, without your support—from buying to checking it out at the library to reviewing to sending tweets—this would not be happening. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

On to 2017! :D

Gray is Okay: On the Spectrum of Asexuality by Calista Lynne

Photo credit: Goodreads
Labels are fantastic. People shouldn’t feel obliged to use them if none seem to fit, but it’s fantastic that we live in a time when people are beginning to learn that there are so many sexualities other than just gay and straight. There are more aspects of the LGBTQ community being represented than ever before and inclusion in this can be extremely validating.

My upcoming novel We Awaken is about two female asexuals in a same sex relationship. To write these characters I did a lot of research on the ace community (which I am a member of) and spoke with people who do not feel sexual attraction, which showed me how much of a spectrum this sexuality can be. For example, one member of the main couple enjoys kissing because she finds it romantic but the other does not. One is interested in only women but the other doesn’t really take gender into account when falling for someone. People contain multitudes and asexuality is more than just a lack of sexual attraction.

Gray asexuality is for those who feel somewhere between ace and sexual—so they might feel sexual attraction rarely or only under specific circumstances. You may be thinking doesn’t everyone only feel sexual attraction under specific circumstances? That's true, except with gray aces instances of attraction are oftentimes notably rare. There can be years in between. Gray is an important label because it allows for unsurety. Sometimes, people don’t know if what they’re feeling is genuinely sexual attraction because it’s not like there’s much to compare it to. It’s great for those who have a lot in common with the asexual community but feel like the title doesn’t fit quite right.

One gray sexuality is demisexuality—when someone only feels sexual attraction after forming a close bond with another. Many individuals only have sex with people they’re close with, anyway, but demisexuality differs from this in that demisexuals literally do not feel attracted to anyone they haven’t formed strong emotional bonds with.

There is no singular definition for gray asexuality which allows it to be more inclusive. It’s for people who know they belong somewhere among the aces but aren’t quite sure where. Some have and enjoy sex, others don’t. Growing up ace or demi can be painful, and oftentimes aces feel broken. It’s especially confusing during teenage years when everyone discovers and becomes obsessed with sex while they come to terms with their own identities. It’s important that we have representation because so many people don’t know asexuality isn’t that uncommon. A lack of knowledge leads to a judgmental society.

Although I'm ace, I can only speak for the type of asexuality I experience and didn’t want to invalidate any of its varying forms. My first step was the generic googling of what I was writing, and it actually helped in understanding the basic definitions of my sexuality better, but still wasn’t enough. There's very little material on this sexuality and not a lot is firsthand. The internet was my friend yet again though, and I reached out to other members of the asexual community to hear their experiences, which I incorporated into the story.

If you have a question, ask it. Don’t be afraid to go out and seek help or do your own research because people generally want to support you. There’s that cliché of you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take but you’ll truly never know what opportunities you missed from not reaching out. Conduct interviews. Email questions. Speak to people in line at department stores. Any amount of real world experience helps.

On one more parting note in regard to being gray ace and deciding who you are: I say if a label validates you, seems to fit, and makes you happy, use it and who cares what anyone has to say.

And if my novel about ladies loving ladies sounds at all interesting to you, here’s the synopsis:

"Victoria Dinham doesn’t have much left to look forward to. Since her father died in a car accident, she lives only to fulfill her dream of being accepted into the Manhattan Dance Conservatory. But soon she finds another reason to look forward to dreams when she encounters an otherworldly girl named Ashlinn, who bears a message from Victoria’s comatose brother. Ashlinn is tasked with conjuring pleasant dreams for humans, and through the course of their nightly meetings in Victoria’s mind, the two become close. Ashlinn also helps Victoria understand asexuality and realize that she, too, is asexual.

But then Victoria needs Ashlinn’s aid outside the realm of dreams, and Ashlinn assumes human form to help Victoria make it to her dance audition. They take the opportunity to explore New York City, their feelings for each other, and the nature of their shared asexuality. But like any dream, it’s too good to last. Ashlinn must shrug off her human guise and resume her duties creating pleasant nighttime visions—or all of humanity will pay the price."

Calista Lynne
is a perpetual runaway who grew up on the American East coast and is currently studying in London. She is oftentimes seen screeching at Big Ben and pointing out the same landmarks on a daily basis, and is having difficulty adjusting to the lack of Oxford commas across the pond. She writes because it always seemed to make more sense than mathematics, and has superb parents who support more than just her latte addiction. If Calista Lynne could change one thing about her life, it’d probably be her lack of ability to play both of the ukuleles adorning her rainbow bookshelves.

Twitter-sized bite: 
WE AWAKEN author @calistawrites talks writing ace characters and the importance of labels on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: On Branding

On branding yourself as an author, particularly if you want to write in multiple genres and categories. Is it possible to write in more than one genre/category? I answer that an more in today's vlog.


Do you write in multiple genres/categories?

Twitter-sized bite: 
Is it possible to publish multiple genres/categories as an author? @Ava_Jae answers that and more in today's vlog. (Click to tweet)

Taking Stock of 2016 Reading/Writing Goals

So we're officially halfway through the year (!!), which means I decided to take stock of what I've done this year so far, and look forward to the next six months with some new goals and milestones. My resolutions for 2016 were:

  1. Read 70 books
  2. Write one new manuscript
  3. Finish revising current manuscript
  4. Prioritize taking care of myself throughout the year

So far I'm making good progress. I've read 36 books so far, drafted one and a half manuscripts, finished revising the manuscript I was working on at the beginning of the year (or at least, finished revising it enough that I would have considered it finished in January), and I established a weekly day off for myself to make sure I don't forget the self-care thing. Also I started strength training with free weights for the first time ever this year and the (now visible) results have made me very happy. So far so good. 

I decided to take a closer look at the books I've read so far, however, because back last November I did a diversity reading analysis and I wanted to see how I'm stacking up so far. 

So of the 36 books I've read so far, 21 have included some sort of marginalized representation, while 15 have not. 

Of the diverse narratives, 3 included neuroatypical or mental illness representation, 14 had QUILTBAG characters, 9 had major characters of marginalized races/ethnicities, and only 3 had characters with physical disabilities.

Bright side, I suppose, is I've read a grand total of one more book with physical disability rep in the first six months of the year than I did all of last year. I'd like to read more books with POC characters for sure, so that's something I'll focus on the next six months, along with looking for books with some neuroatypical characters because apparently I've been severely lacking in that department this year. 

Looking at the authors, I've read books from 24 cis women authors, 9 cis men authors, and 2 trans/nonbinary authors. 

And based off what I know/can find easily online, 17 of the books I've read so far were by marginalized authors and 19 weren't. 

So all in all, I think I'm doing okay. I'd like to continue to prioritize marginalized authors in my reading list whenever I can. Looking at what's left of my owned TBR shelf, a lot of what I have already isn't written by marginalized authors, but there are a couple books I've wanted to read anyway that are, and plus the library is a thing, and also I have some pre-orders coming in that will help with that too. 

As for my writing goals, I'm definitely aiming to both finish drafting and revise the manuscript I'm currently working on, plus I'd like to make it a goal to first draft the WIP I've already plotted, but I'll have to make that a flexible goal because some other projects may take priority. Still! I'll set it as a bonus goal. 

All in all I've met many goals this year already and look forward to more progress. Yay. :)

What reading and writing goals have you been working toward this year?

Twitter-sized bite: 
How have you been progressing with your 2016 goals? @Ava_Jae takes a look at her progress so far. (Click to tweet)

The Cycle of Writing

Photo credit: freddie boy on Flickr
So I've mentioned several times already how in 2015 I didn't draft anything new. This was a big deal to me at the time, because 2015 was the first time since 2005 that I didn't write at least one manuscript a year (I finished my first ever MS in 2006), so I ended up breaking an almost decade-long writing streak, and, well.

Emotionally, it was tough.

Granted, looking back, there were a million reasons why this happened: in 2014 I wrote two manuscripts back-to-back, 2015 was the year before my debut's publication, 2015 I worked on revisions for three (I think?) different manuscripts including Beyond the Red, and that's without counting the heaviest school load I'd ever had (18 credits one semester), and some really emotional Real Life events that happened a couple months apart.

All of that is to say logically I shouldn't have had a problem cutting myself some slack, especially since I did get a lot of work done (so many revisions!), but you know, brains are jerks, we are our own worst critics, etc. etc.

So when 2016 started, one of my resolutions was to first draft a new manuscript—and I'll be honest, I had doubts about whether or not it was actually going to happen even though I very much wanted it to happen. Not drafting for a year messed with my self-confidence a bit, despite all the good stuff going on.

So this April I started first drafting again, and I finished the (very short—but complete!) first draft on May first. The draft came in a little under 50,000 words, and when I finished I really wasn't sure I'd want to pull it out again (now almost two months later, I'm definitely psyched to get back to it hopefully in the not-too-distant future). But it was a draft, and it satisfied my New Year's Resolution, and I also felt much better having finished my fourteenth (eeep) first draft.

This month I've started first drafting again—something totally different from the WIP I wrote in April. And as nervous as I was to get started (and I was), I hit the ground running, set a 2k/day 6 day/week goal, and gave myself a mid-July deadline. So far things are going well—I'm 60% through and ahead of target, so barring unforeseen circumstances, I should be able to finish on time no problem.

But for the first time ever, despite already having written a first draft this year and getting through my second first draft of 2016 relatively smoothly, I actually have a third fully-plotted WIP I'm itching to write.

As far as I can remember, I've never written three manuscripts in a year before (though I have happily written two in a year on several occasions). But this idea has been so fiercely on my mind since I started plotting it in earnest that I've already promised myself if I don't get the chance to do it sooner, I'll use it for NaNoWriMo assuming I don't have a more impending deadline to get to that month.

So to go from nothing new in a year to (possibly) three new manuscripts the next year reminded me writing is very much a cycle. From idea generation, to plotting, to first drafting, to revising revising revising revising, to resting if you can, and back again, the cycle is clear enough—but sometimes we slip into a cyclical mindset, too. Sometimes a year of revising manuscript after manuscript means a year of drafting manuscript after manuscript, and that's okay.

Sometimes it's easy to forget we need to give ourselves room to focus on one part of the cycle at a time, especially when we're dealing with multiple projects. Sometimes it's easy to forget that not writing anything new for a while doesn't mean you'll never write anything new again.

So here's the reminder to you guys that I needed last year: writing is a cycle, and no matter what part of the cycle you're at, give yourself the room you need to enjoy the stage you're in. I promise everything will be okay.

What part of the writing cycle are you at right now?

Twitter-sized bites: 

"Not writing anything new for a while doesn't mean you'll never write anything new again." (Click to tweet)
Feeling stuck in one stage of the writing process? @Ava_Jae talks cycles and writing. (Click to tweet
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