Saturday, 30 November 2013

Without You Blog Tour Review

Awhile back I had the pleasure of interviewing Brooklyn Skye and reviewing her debut novel, STRIPPED. You can read that review and interview here. I recently had the pleasure of reading WITHOUT YOU, a companion novella to STRIPPED, written in Torrin's perspective. Scroll down to read.

STRIPPED (a novel) 
College freshman Quinn Montgomery will do anything to avoid the mistake her sister made—killing herself over a boy. But when she is forced into nude modeling at a local college to support her family after a bankruptcy, she begins to crack, just enough to let Torrin, the university’s top varsity oarsman, see that the real Quinn is not as feisty and unapproachable as she wants everyone to think. But letting someone in comes at a steep cost and, it turns out, Torrin is connected to Quinn’s family in more ways than she could ever imagine.

 WITHOUT YOU (a novella)

She was broken when I met her, shattered from the death of her sister and running from love. Not to sound like an egotistical douche or anything, but I fixed her. Put her back together, filled in the cracks, and made her whole. A true fairytale in her eyes.
But now real life is getting in the way: school, jobs, and the unexpected opportunity to travel the world under a legendary photographer. This internship will open doors not even my father’s influence could. It’s something I’ve been waiting all my life for. But so is Quinn, and accepting this internship will mean leaving her. And breaking her all over again.
 About the author:
Brooklyn Skye grew up in a small town where she quickly realized writing was an escape from small town life. Really, she’s just your average awkward girl who’s obsessed with words. She’s addicted to books not aimed at her age group, characters that make her swoon, and the smile she sees when someone reads what she’s written. You can follow her on Twitter as @brooklyn__skye, Facebook, or visit her web site for updates, teasers, giveaways, and more.

Without You is available on Kindle and Nook. You can also add it to your Goodreads shelf.

My Review

One of the things that really drew me to STRIPPED was the raw voice. Quinn's narrative made the book a real page turner. WIHOUT YOU, however, is written from Torrin's point of view. Now, I have read companion novels in the past in which the second installment was written from the male POV and it was well done. I'm thinking of Tamara Ireland Stone's novel in particular. WITHOUT YOU fell a bit flat for me on this front.

I reread STRIPPED and fell in love with it all over again, and while I like Torrin and felt the author did a great job with Torrin's banter with his teammates and the romantic scenes, there were times when Torrin's narrative just didn't hold up to Quinn's from STRIPPED. Quinn was broken, but she was feisty and sassy. Torrin, on the other hand, is struggling with a secret. He's been offered a wonderful internship and is unsure whether he wants to go because of how it will impact Quinn. I love that he cares about her. I love that he has a hard choice to make. In terms of plot and the new adult genre, I think the author is right on the mark as she was with her debut. Plus, WITHOUT YOU has the same beautiful, carefully worded prose that captured my attention in STRIPPED. 

Overall, WITHOUT YOU was good, 4 stars, (brown belt on my book ranking system), but STRIPPED was better.


Friday, 15 November 2013

Bronze! Podium Finish Debuted at Number 3!

Hi all,

Thank you so much to all those who have purchased Podium Finish and all those who have sent warm wishes my way.

Here's the tweet I woke up to today:

And here's the screen shot from Amazon:


Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Happy Book Birthday to Me!

It's here! Isn't the cover awesome? Podium Finish is finally here, available for purchase at Barnes and Noble and Amazon Kindle. It will be listed on goodreads soon, so please don't forget to mark it as "to read" once it's up and also to post a review on goodreads and if you can.

There will be a print run, but not for a little while, so if you don't have a kindle e-reader, you can download the Kindle for PC or Kindle for iPhone apps and start reading from there!

I feel like I should blast "La Bamba" now. (If you read the book, you'll understand the reference.)

Happy reading!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Interview with Aimee L. Salter and Breakable Review

If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?
When seventeen-year-old Stacy looks in the mirror she can see and talk to her future self. “Older Me” has been Stacy's secret support through the ongoing battle with their neurotic mother, relentless bullying at school, and dealing with her hopeless love for her best friend, Mark.

Then Stacy discovers Older Me is a liar.

Still reeling from that betrayal, Stacy is targeted again by her most persistent tormentor. Only this time, he's used her own artwork to humiliate her - and threaten her last chance with Mark.

She’s reached breaking point.


"Original. Authentic. Heart-breaking. BREAKABLE has officially become one of my favorites!" -New York Times Bestselling Author of Losing It, Cora Carmack

My Review

Powerfully written, Aimee L. Salter's debut novel, Breakable, is a must-read Indie book that rivals traditionally published young adult novels.

Seventeen-year-old artist Stacy regularly sees an older version of herself, dubbed Older Me, in the mirror. Sounds cool, right? And helpful? Well...maybe not. Stacy's future self is full of warnings--don't go to that party, don't trust that person etc.-- but not so willing to give Stacy answers. Despite the warnings, Stacy makes her own choices and not all of them turn out well. Already the victim of some terrible bullying, not listening to Older Me, proves to make things worse for Stacy.

I can't say too much more without giving away any spoilers, so I'll stop there, but I will say this: I don't often read books twice, but Breakable is a book I could definitely see myself picking up again. The writing is lovely and well-paced, and Stacy is a character you can't help but root for. And as a quick, final note, the cover, a self-portrait of Stacy, fits the book perfectly. Check out Breakable. You won't be sorry.

My rating? (For those who've read my other reviews, you know I tend to use martial arts belts and not stars) Black belt! (AKA 4.5-5 stars)

* * *

And now without further ado, my interview with the super sweet Aimee L. Salter! 

1. I read that you got the idea for Breakable from the Dear Teen Me Series. Is there one thing you wish you could tell your teen self?

Oh, gosh. So many things! I think if I could tell her one thing, it would be to trust her instincts and to use them when she's making decisions.

Also, not to wear the blue mascara to that 9th grade school photo day...

2. What is your writing process like? Are you a planner or a pantser?

The very first book I wrote I pantsed and I lost so much time to going back and rewriting where I'd gotten sidetracked or off point, that I swore I'd never do it again. Since then I've outlined every manuscript I've started, even the ones I haven't finished. And I love it that way.

That said, I tend to “pants” scenes quite a bit. I usually know going into the scene what I need it to achieve, but I don’t generally know how I’m going to do get the characters from A to B. So I enjoy the ride, from that perspective.

3. Could you talk a little bit about the journey your book has taken from first draft to now? Why did you choose to self-publish?

Wow, it sure has been a journey! I started writing Breakable (then called Listen to Me) in February 2011 with no intention of trying to get it published.

But since then I’ve had two agents (for two different books). I’ve been on submission to Big Six editors twice, and both times had great responses to the manuscript, followed by consistent feedback for revisions. And in both cases, while we were in the middle of those revisions, both agents had to leave our contract for personal reasons (and no, that isn’t a euphemism). Lucky for me, the second agent (Brittany Howard – aka NYT and international bestselling author, Cora Carmack) believed in Breakable so much, she offered to do anything she could to help me “get it out there”.

She would have helped me find another agent. But I think I was discouraged by the idea of trying that entire process again, with no guarantee that, even if I could find one, we wouldn’t have yet another year of revisions ahead of us before we got a contract.

On top of that, Brittany/Cora’s career started with a self-published novel. She knew what was involved. She knew what I would need to do to give my book any chance of success. And she was in a position to help (she’s blurbed my book for me and helped me promote it, which is REALLY generous of her).

So, after about three weeks of vacillating, I decided to take the plunge. And honestly, I haven’t regretted it for a second since. Don’t get me wrong – there’s a lot of nerves involved in this process. I’m terrified of fading into obscurity like so many other debut, self-published authors. But at the same time, I’ve had the chance to put the book out exactly how I want to. I don’t answer to anyone. All the decisions have been mine. All the design aspects were approved by me. I did the formatting myself, and I wrote all the promotional material.

Of course, that means that if Breakable isn’t a commercial success, there’s no one to blame but me! But honestly, even if it doesn’t sell a ton of copies, I’ll be honest: I feel like I’ve achieved what I always wanted to achieve with this book. And I did it myself. It’s a great feeling. Even knowing the risks, I don’t regret it a bit.

4. What is the most important thing authors should know before deciding to self-publish?

No one is kidding when they say it’s a TON of work. No one. Not kidding. A TON.

Not afraid of hard work?  Me either. But bear with me for one more point:

The author who enters self-publishing because of impatience, or an unwillingness to let others speak into their work is likely to get hurt.

If you decide to do this, make sure you’re making what is it at least an arguably valid business decision. Don’t spend more than you can afford to lose, don’t expect the internet to overload Amazon looking for you just because you’re there, and don’t step forward before you’ve learned how to gird your loins.

When you’re the brain behind (almost) every idea, the hand behind every keystroke, and the inspiration behind the vehicle, inevitably you’re travelling alone. No matter how many people support you, love you, and love your book, in the end, it’s all up to you. That can be a very isolating feeling. And if something fails, it can be foundation-shaking.

I think you have to be a very strong person (or perhaps a stupid one? Ask me in a year) to self-publish. You have to be able to get up when you’ve been knocked down, stand up when someone tells you you’re wrong, and keep going when it feels like every force in nature (or on the internet) is working against you. You have to be happy with your own company. And you have to be willing to fail.

In fact, forget about the rest. If you’re considering self-publishing, don’t do it until you’re absolutely prepared to fall flat on your face. Because honestly? Chances are good… *Gulp*

5. What do you see as the benefits to self-publishing?

Two words:

1.     Control
2.     Speed.

‘Nuff said.

6. Was there a part of your book, maybe a particular scene that was your favorite to write? Why?

Hmmm…yes. The first time Stacy got kissed by Mark. I lived that moment with her. It was awesome. And, forgive me, a little bit hot.

Scenes like that are fun to revise too, but there’s nothing like the first time you inhabit that moment and find the words to describe it. It’s one of the best parts of being a writer.

7. I've read your blog posts about writing. They're great! Could you select a couple of your best tips/tricks of the trade to help aspiring writers?

Thank you! It’s so cool to hear from people who’ve read my blog and found it useful.

Tip #1

You can’t grow as a writer if you won’t let other people in to read your work and criticize it. Yes, it’s hard, but it’s a necessary part of maturing your skill. And there’s a really healthy by-product I hadn’t identified until recently: Having people critique your work and tell you what’s wrong with it prepares you for the process of being reviewed. Because it’s impossible to write the book everyone wants to read. So negative feedback and reviews are inevitable, no matter how your book is published. Learning to deal with that in a healthy way is really helpful when it comes time to facing the masses.

Tip #2

Whether you’re a Planner or a Pantser, I really think understanding and being able to anticipate the key turning points of plot and structure makes you a better writer. I’ve a got a plot development series on my blog [link:] that touches on some of the key elements, but there’s SO MUCH material out there from better, more experienced writers than me. Learn the craft. I can’t stress that strongly enough. Learn from others and see what a difference it makes. (If you’re not sure, start with Dwight V. Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer. It’s 40 years old and written differently than we expect these days, but that book is GOLD for the writer who wants to truly understand how fiction works and how to make a story work for you).

8. Lastly, what's up next? Are you working on a sophomore novel?

I’m working on about five! (Nope. Not joking). Because I struggle to know which one should get my full attention, I’m offering readers a chance to win a character named after them. All they have to do is read three brief book descriptions, then tick the box on how much each concept appeals / doesn’t appeal.

I call it my reader survey, and if you’re interested, you can enter here:

Thanks for having me, Beth! Your support is awesome. And this has been a fun interview!

My PhotoAimee L. Salter is a Pacific North-Westerner who spent much of her young (and not-so-young) life in New Zealand. After picking up a Kiwi husband and son, she’s recently returned to Oregon.

She writes novels for teens and the occasional adult who, like herself, are still in touch with their inner-high schooler.

Aimee is the author behind Seeking the Write Life, a popular blog for writers at You can also find her on Twitter ( and Facebook (

Aimee’s debut novel, Breakable, releases November 4th for Kindle, Nook and in paperback. You can add Breakable to your to-read list on Goodreads at

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Reflections on South Africa and the road ahead...

During one of my Skype chats with my mom while I was in South Africa, I told her that the next time I do something for nine months she better be getting a grandchild out of it.

Nine months abroad. It's what I wanted. I knew I was going to apply for a Fulbright from the moment I learned what it was during my freshman year. The opportunity to get paid to teach abroad? Heck yes!

After I found out I'd received the grant, 9 months seemed short, like it would fly by, but as I was boarding the plane to Jo-burg, 9 months felt just right. Now, I should say that my Fulbright experience was not typical. If you've read some of my previous posts, you know why. I should also say that Fulbright was very supportive and doing a Fulbright, whether as an ETA, like I was, or a researcher, is a wonderful, life-changing opportunity.

Going in, I knew I'd need to be flexible. I knew the internet wouldn't be great. I knew people would have lots of questions about America. I knew these things, and I expected them. What I didn't expect was to work at such a variety of schools. I expected to be in one school for the whole 9 months. I expected consistency. I loved my kids at the first school, but due to escalating violence, the embassy pulled my teaching partner and I out. They had to. It was the right call, but this happened 6 weeks in, and it meant that for the rest of my 9 months, I was moved around. I worked at another school in Pretoria for 6 weeks. Then I moved to Cape Town and worked at a university writing center from April to July. For the last two months, I taught second grade. Admittedly, there were times when I felt frustrated. Wasn't I supposed to be loving this? Wasn't I supposed to be having the time of my life? I wasn't, and I felt guilty that I wasn't. I did everything I could to make it better, and I kept being flexible, but I wasn't happy, and for a good chunk of my time abroad, I wasn't teaching. When I was at the university, there was little work for me to do, and the only thing that felt truly fulfilling was my work with my martial arts students. I taught martial arts at two high schools for a total of 3 hours a week. The rest of the time I hung out at the gym or wrote. I got a great deal of writing done (but then went on to do a complete overhaul of the manuscript and cut most of what I'd written. However, that's besides the point).

I've come to realize that what my experience lacked in consistency, it made up for in breadth. Had I stayed at one school for 9 months, I would have made a huge difference, because I know the difference I made in just 6 weeks. That was what I wanted. After I was moved around, I felt like I was making less and less of a difference, and this really took it's toll on me. I wanted to be teaching a real class, not sitting at a desk seeing one student every 8 hour shift at the writing center. Things picked up once I started teaching second grade though. I had a rowdy class of 42 kids, but I could see a difference in their behavior and academics by the time I left. I was teaching again, and I was happy.

So in 9 months, I taught primary, high school, and university students. I had 3 successful martial arts programs (1 in Pretoria and 2 in Cape Town.) I had nearly 30 students in Cape Town receive "yellow belt certificates" and had a reasonably successful adult self-defense class at the university too. I did make a difference and on a wider scale than I would have had I stayed in one place. I can see that now, and I miss my students, but I'm also really glad to be back in North America.

They told us at orientation last year to expect re-entry shock. I've had bits and pieces of it. Silly and minor things. I can use my kindle on the buses here in Vancouver without the worry of getting mugged. And my iPhone! I'm sorry, but Blackberry doesn't compare. (Now I just need to sell my unlocked SA blackberry.) Blackberry is popular in SA, and it worked fine while I was there, but I'd forgotten how fun the iPhone is. I upgraded my iPhone 3 to an iPhone 5 C when I got back and I'm still in awe of it. And then there's the fact that I downloaded a show on iTunes in under 10 minutes the other day. It took hours in SA. HOURS! I couldn't even download a song in under 10 minutes.

As for the other parts of re-entry shock, there's the understanding that the world has gone on without you, just like you've gone on for 9 months away from them. And yet when you see certain friends, it's like you never left. Cherish these moments and these people. For me, there was also a rather painful moment in which I expected a certain group of people to make a bigger deal of my homecoming than they did, but other events overshadowed my return.

Now, I'm back in Vancouver, in classes with a bunch of new faces. Most of my friends are in other classes, but life is good. I'm writing again. I didn't get much of a chance to do that during my last two months in South Africa because I had 42 second graders that needed to pass national tests, and I had to help prepare them for it--with no standardized lesson plans for help by the way. Thanks to some of the songs I got on YouTube, my kids were experts on place value and nouns, and thanks to one of my projects, "verb people" (pictures are on my facebook page) they had a better understanding of verbs after one lesson than some of my grade 8's in Pretoria did. They also loved the book Green Eggs and Ham. I once asked them what it was about and they all screamed, "NOUNS!" Then one of my students gave me a wonderful plot summary. They were sweet kids, rowdy but sweet, and my word, were they sad when I left. There are still mornings when I wake up and expect to go in and see them, to get hugs as they enter the classroom in the morning, to have to remind them to about their punctuation, and to play soccer with them at recess.

But I digress, the writing, I'd forgotten how good it feels to just write. My novel PODIUM FINISH will be published on November 14 from Astraea Press. I've seen the cover. It's awesome. I'm hoping to put together a book blog tour in December, once the book has been out for a little while and once it's a little closer to the Olympics, so stay tuned for that.

I'll also be posting a book review of Aimee L. Salter's BREAKABLE on November 11. It's fab so read it as soon as you can and then come back here on the 11th to read my interview with her as well as my review.

I've got two other manuscripts in the works. One is SIDE OUT, my master's thesis. It's an Upper MG novel about a girl who switches schools and finds solace in volleyball after an embarrassing video of her and her autistic brother goes viral. This project hits close to home, as the brother in the story, T.J., is basically my brother Danny, his love of Spongebob and Richard Simmons included. I went to private school too, like Cass ultimately does, but that's where the similarities end. I've got two more chapters to write this weekend and then the first draft will be complete!  I'm also working on ABBY'S KEEPER, a YA book about Gracie, a soccer goalkeeper, who in her grief after losing her sister, sets her sights on winning the State Championship title, the one win that eluded her sister. Are you noticing a pattern here? Girls and sports. :)

Well, that's all the updates I have for now. I've been a little slow on posting things with all the travel I've been doing, but there will definitely be lots more posts in the coming weeks.