Top 4 Favorite Book Boyfriends

Photo credit: sarah gabriela on Flickr
So I’ve been doing lots of reading this year, which is very exciting and awesome and someone on Twitter suggested I write a post about my favorite book boyfriends. So, I mean, I couldn’t not.

Fun post, here we go:

  • Nikolai Lantsov (The Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo)

    So, I read Siege and Storm, which is the book where Nikolai makes his debut, two years ago. And I’m pretty darn sure he’ll always stay on my favorite book boyfriends list, because he has remained at the top ever since. And I mean, snarky pirate with A+ flirting skills and a heart of gold, so, like how could he not be?

  • Kash (The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig)

    I am super lucky in that I got to read this book early (TGFE releases in February 2016!) but Kash, oh man. He leapt onto my list pretty much immediately. I guess I have a thing for pirates because he is indeed part of a pirate crew (though so is the protag) and he’s also a ridiculously good thief, and is snarky, and swoony, and so good and sweet and UGH Kash. I need more.

  • Gabriel Boutin (Half Bad trilogy by Sally Green)

    It’s a little hard for me to talk about Gabriel without spoiling anything, but he very quickly exceeded my expectations and grew from minor character to character I desperately need good things to happen to. Crossing my fingers that said good things do indeed happen in Half Lost

  • Kenji Kishimoto (Shatter Me trilogy by Tahereh Mafi)

    The funny thing about Kenji making this list is he’s not even a love interest in the series—but doesn’t matter! Because he’s been my favorite since he showed up in Shatter Me. Kenji is kind of the comic relief—so yes, he’s snarky—and he’s mostly hilarious and also just a wonderful character. If Kenji got his own book, I would totally read it. 

Who are your favorite book boyfriends (or girlfriends)?

Twitter-sized bite:

Who are your favorite book boyfriends or girlfriends? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

World Building Tip: Holidays and Rituals

Photo credit: mine
So in the US, yesterday was Thanksgiving, and today is Black Friday, both of which include very different rituals that come about this time of year, every year. This weekend and onward, holiday decorations will go up—lights and ribbons and fake presents, etc. will twinkle around public places until they get taken down in January. Soon it’ll be Hanukkah, and Christmas, and Kwanzaa, and New Years Eve—all of which are celebrated in different ways with different traditions.

So, naturally, it got me thinking about world building. Because all of that right there? It’s world building IRL—and each celebration and way of celebrating completely depends on various people’s ethnicities, geography, religion and personal traditions.

For example, I’ve always lived in places with cold winters (with one minor exception of a year of school in the south, but even then my winter break was spent at home). My associations with Christmas, then, involve hoping for snow, hot drinks, evergreen trees, bundling up in winter coats and scarves, and wintry decorations. For most of my life, I celebrated Christmas with the Cuban side of my family, so we’d eat frijoles negros (black beans) and rice, pork, plantains, flan, and we’d finish off the night with café con leche (Cuban coffee latte)—all alongside more traditional American sides and desserts (salad, casseroles, apple pie, etc.).

Those traditions and associations are based off a mix of factors: geography, religion, ethnicity, and nationality. And that’s just me.

While I don’t frequently see holidays mentioned outside of contemporary novels, I do think these kinds of traditions can be a fantastic way to add another layer to your world building regardless of the genre. Holidays and specifically the way we celebrate them are so incredibly varied—and sometimes this can be a really nice detail to add a little verisimilitude to your novel.

Have you considered this aspect of world building in your writing?

Twitter-sized bites:
Have you incorporated holidays and rituals into your world building? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)  
World building tip: what holidays and rituals does your story world have? #writetip (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Feature #17

Photo credit: Victor Bezrukov on Flickr
NaNoWriMo is almost over, Thanksgiving is tomorrow, December is nearly here, and the next Fixing the First Page critique has arrived! Yay!

As per always, 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 (I'm just 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.


Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance

First 250: 

Deliver to abandoned warehouse 
4 miles E of city
5 pm sharp
Bring shovel. 
It was the last line of Hill’s text that had made sweat drip down to my balls, not the roasting D.C. heat made worse by concrete and rush hour car exhaust. My Chevy Impala had barely crawled forward six inches in the last ten minutes. A glance at the dashboard clock showed 4:53.

Yeah, I wasn’t going to make it. 
But none of that mattered as much as his weird request. Why the hell would he need a shovel? Unless the shovel wasn’t meant for him, but for me to dig my own grave. But I already did that when I was 'recruited' to work for him. 
Recruited, blackmailed—same difference. 
The light several cars ahead turned green, and I thought that maybe, just maybe, I might be able to creep along a whole seven inches this time. 
Shit. I cranked the dial on the radio, the speakers blaring a before-my-time Metallica song, and glanced in the rearview mirror. A crowbar and Hill’s small, brown paper-wrapped package sat on the backseat in plain sight. A crowbar, not a shovel, because my day job didn’t have one. 
The car ahead pulled forward, and as I touched the gas, a perky ass to my right made me do a double-take. It stuck up in the air like some kind of supernaturally rounded homing beacon. The woman the ass belonged to stood in the middle of a crowded sidewalk with three bags of luggage surrounding her."

So! First and foremost, this excerpt really has the guy NA voice nailed, which I noticed pretty much right away, so fantastic work! I really like where we're starting here—we've got the protagonist with a goal (do what the text says), immediate conflict (he's stuck in rush hour traffic and going to be late) and some mystery—who is Hill? How was he blackmailed? What is this job? I have a lot of well-placed questions which definitely makes me want to keep reading.

Let's take a look at the (I suspect, minimal) line-edits:

Deliver to abandoned warehouse 
4 miles E of city Just in terms of logistics here, this is super vague as far as directions go. How would Sam know which warehouse to take it to? Or where to even begin looking (I mean, "four miles east" could be a lot of places. Has Sam been there before? This may be something you're going to answer later, but as far as the opening goes, it's unclear to me how he would know where he was going without a street address.
5 pm sharp
Bring shovel. 
It was the last line of Hill’s text that ha'd made sweat drip down to my balls (Awesome voice), not the roasting D.C. heat made worse by concrete and rush hour car exhaust. Do you mean asphalt? Concrete doesn't really reflect heat back up—but asphalt does. My Chevy Impala had barely crawled forward six inches in the last ten minutes. A glance at the dashboard clock showed 4:53.

Yeah, I wasn’t going to make it. Really like the placement and voice here too. 
But none of that mattered as much as his weird request. Why the hell would he need a shovel? Unless the shovel wasn’t meant for him, but for me to dig my own grave. I don't necessarily need to know right this second, but I'm not sure if the grave comment is serious or a joke, which makes it harder for me to judge how serious this, er, job is. But I already did that when I was 'recruited' to work for him. 
Recruited, blackmailed—same difference. Love this line, too. And extra points for more voice.
The light several cars ahead turned green,. and I thought that mMaybe, just maybe, I might be able to creep along a whole seven inches this time. Adjusted to remove filtering of "I thought."
Shit. I cranked the dial on the radio, the speakers blaring a before-my-time Metallica song, and glanced in the rearview mirror. A crowbar and Hill’s small, brown paper-wrapped package sat on the backseat in plain sight. A crowbar, not a shovel, because my day job didn’t have one. More great voice! And nice clarification. A+ for voice.
The car ahead pulled forward, and as I touched the gas, a perky ass to my right made me do a double-take. It stuck up in the air like some kind of supernaturally rounded homing beacon. *snicker* The woman the ass belonged to stood in the middle of a crowded sidewalk with three bags of luggage surrounding her."

Okay, so as I suspected, really minor line edits—and really, what I found was mostly polishing and/or nit-picky stuff. This is a really strong opening, definitely fits the NA vibe and if I saw this in the slush, I'd absolutely keep reading. In fact, in a Fixing the First Page crit first, I loved this sample so much I showed my boss, Stephen Morgan, who is an editor at Entangled Publishing and we'd love to see if the submission is right for us. So consider this a request from Stephen to submit to Entangled Embrace, if you would like to. :) Overall, fantastic job!

Thanks for sharing your first 250 with us, Lindsey!

Would you like to be featured in a Fixing the First Page Feature? Keep an eye out for the last first 250 crit giveaway of 2015 next month!

Twitter-sized bite:
.@Ava_Jae talks NA voice, strong openings, and polishing in the 17th Fixing the First Page critique. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: On the Info Dump

World building can be tough, especially when it comes to conveying necessary information. But how do you get the info you need across without info dumping? Today I share some tips.


What strategies do you have for avoiding info dumps and gradually conveying information throughout your WIP?

Twitter-sized bites: 
Struggling to build your story world w/o info dumps? @Ava_Jae vlogs strategies for gradually conveying information. (Click to tweet
When world building, @Ava_Jae says to "think of your information as a cooking spice." What do you think? #vlog (Click to tweet)

Are You Using Your Story World to Its Fullest Potential?

Photo credit: mine
So as I’m writing this post, it’s snowing. Really hard. It’s the perfect silent snow storm with giant white flakes and we’ve got close to five inches on the ground already and it’s not going to let up any time soon. And I’m loving it. (Day later update: we got a foot of snow.)

But it got me thinking about story worlds and settings and how easy it is to forget to use the world itself to its fullest potential. Sometimes—and I know I have totally been guilty of this from time to time—we get so caught up in the plot and character that we forget that, if done correctly, the world can be a character in itself. The world can create problems—massive problems, if we let it—for our characters.

I mean, those of you who live in snowy places know what it’s like to cancel plans because of a blizzard. Or how terrifying it can be to get caught driving on one. Or how easily slippery road conditions can totally mess up your day.

Those of you who live in the coastal south likely know what it’s like to have to hunker down inside during a hurricane. Some of you in the plains know what it’s like to hear tornado sirens, or how scary it can be to hide while the sirens are going. Those over near active fault lines know exactly what an earthquake feels like.

There are loads of examples of the way the world directly affects us—and that’s without even diving into how societal things influence our identities and plans. And yet, when it comes to writing, it can be so, so easy to forget to incorporate those things.

Granted, you have to be careful. It’s also easy to use weather in cliché ways (i.e.: raining during a sad scene, bright and sunny during a happy one), or to not properly set something world-related up before using it. But if properly set up and carefully incorporated, your story world can be a really interesting layer that can complicate the plot and impact the characters in really fascinating ways. You just have to be willing to use it.

Have you utilized your story world to complicate the plot in your writing?

Twitter-sized bite:
Have you used your story world to its fullest plot-complicating potential? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Giveaway Winner #17!

Photo credit: Stacie Stacie Stacie on Flickr
Quick Sunday post today to announce the winner of the seventeenth fixing the first page feature giveaway! Yay!


And the winner is…


Yay! Congratulations, Lindsey! Expect an e-mail from me shortly.

Thank you to all you wonderful entrants! If you didn't win, as always, there will be another fixing the first page giveaway next month (the last one of 2015!), so keep an eye out! :)

A 2015 Diversity Reading Analysis

So a little while back I saw this post from Shaun Hutchinson where he examined the books he'd read in 2015 to try to determine how many diverse books he'd been reading. I thought it might be constructive to do the same, given that the year is ending and I'll soon be making goals for next year's reading challenge.

So of the 53 books I've read so far this year, 33 of them included some sort of marginalized representation, and 20 did not. I've been making a concerted effort to read more books with marginalized characters this year, so I was pretty happy to see that ultimately, it looks like my efforts mostly paid off.

Of the diverse narratives, 8 included mental illness representation, 11 had major QUILTBAG characters, 21 had major characters of marginalized races, and only 2 had physical disability representation. You'll notice that if you add the 20 that don't have representation in, I have more than 53, and that's because many of the books fit more than one category, and so were counted more than once.

I was kind of pleasantly surprised to see how many books I read with characters of marginalized races and ethnicities. A good chunk of those (9) were assigned readings for a Contemporary Muslim Literature class I took last semester, which in retrospect was an excellent choice of class, both to help with my reading goals and just because it was a great class.

I was disappointed to see how few books I came across with physical disabilities, but I can't say I was particularly surprised, given that they're not the easiest to find. I'd definitely like to make more of an effort to look for them specifically in the future, though, so something to keep in mind for next year.

Now looking at the authors, I read 36 books written by women, 14 written by men, and 3 written by non-binary authors.

Based off of what I know of the authors, 25 books I read were written by marginalized authors, and 28 were not. There may be some variation here, because again, this is just based off of what I know and/or was able to find about the authors. 

Next year, ideally, I'd like to read more books written by marginalized authors than not, but I think my trend here is overall headed in the right direction, which is encouraging. 

My takeaway here, I think, is that next year I'll continue to search out books with representation of some kind, focus more on finding narratives that include physical disability representation, and try to continue to seek out books written by marginalized authors. I know I've got quite a few books on my TBR list already that fit into some of those categories, so it'll be more a matter of paying attention to what books I prioritize in terms of buying first. 

What sorts of reading goals did you aim for this year? Any idea what you'll be focusing on next?

Twitter-sized bite: 
.@Ava_Jae breaks down books she's read in 2015 in terms of representation. What 2015 reading goals did you have? (Click to tweet)

Some Pre-Debut Thoughts

So chances are really likely if you follow me on Twitter, Instagram, tumblr, or Facebook, you’ve seen me kinda sorta freaking out over happy Beyond the Red news, namely, that ARCs are now a thing that exist. My editor and publisher sent me the pics below:

It’s super exciting! And while I do not have my copies yet (yet!) I know I won’t have to wait much longer at all. And that on it’s own is crazy amazing, but it’s also mid-November which means there are three and a half-ish months before Beyond the Red hits the shelves. That’s it.

Which is so exciting! But also means all the out-of-anyone’s-control nervous-making stuff is going to be starting, like, soon. Like really, really soon.

Things like whether or not readers and reviewers like the book. Things like how well the book does/doesn’t sell. Things like the takeaway people get after reading. Things like whether people buy the book or whether it fades into obscurity. Things like sales rankings and lists the book may/may not be on and whether, a month later, anyone remembers it at all.

The thing is, I’m just barely entering that transition where the book goes from mine to everyone’s. And I know that this, ARCs becoming real and being sent to people—this is where it starts. And I know that with the way this year’s been going, I’m going to blink and it’ll be March, and my book will be a hardcover thing you can buy in a bookstore.

This is not a complaining post. This is just me being real and transparent with you guys, because I’ve always felt like that was important, given that many of you are aspiring to one day go through the same milestones.

The truth is, right now I’m okay. Most of the time. But then I’ll remember something—a particular scene, or sentence, or messages, or whatever and the nervousness will be a kick in the stomach. And then I’ll breathe and think oh, so this is the pre-debut anxiety they were talking about and then I’ll distract myself and think just do the best you can and hope for the best and that’s what I’m doing. And right now I’m okay, but we’re still a couple months out and I still have a couple chances to make changes if I want to but eventually those safety nets will be gone and it’ll be time to hold my breath, and smile, and hope for the best.

And I think, that right there, the moment when it’s completely out of your hands—that’s the part that so many authors mention getting anxious about. And I thought I understood before, but I’m really starting to get it now—one jolt of anxiety at a time—and I know there are steps I’ll need to take to protect future me.

Steps like doing my absolute best not to look at numbers I can’t control. Steps like doing everything I can to learn and listen so I can continue to improve as a writer, as a person. Steps like burying myself in my next project so that hopefully, in the future, I’ll have more good news and books to share with everyone.

My writing, the way I handle my career, the places and times I choose to engage: those are things I can control. Those are things I know I’ll need to focus on more and more if I want to survive as an anxiety-prone writer.

And yet, I know myself. I know I’ll probably slip up and fret about things I can’t control. I know there will probably be moments where my anxiety will get the best of me, even despite all the steps I’ve taken to make it as manageable as possible. I know some days will be really friggin’ hard, and that’s okay too.

But for now, for today, that’s where I’m at. In this rapidly contracting space of in-between where I’m doing the best I can to be the best I can.

I hope in March it’ll be enough. But I guess that’s the sort of thing that only time will tell.

Twitter-sized bites:
Curious about what life is like before debuting? @Ava_Jae shares her thoughts on the experience thus far. (Click to tweet
"My writing, the way I handle my career...[when] I choose to engage: those are things I can control." (Click to tweet)

Vlog: About The Call

Today in response to a tumblr ask, I'm talking all about The Call with an agent, some basic things to expect, and some things to think about before and during this publishing milestone.


Do you have any questions about The Call? I'll do my best to answer them below! 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Curious about what The Call with an agent is like? @Ava_Jae vlogs her experience + things to think about beforehand. (Click to tweet
Preparing for the eventual Call with an agent? @Ava_Jae vlogs about some things to think about beforehand. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Giveaway #17!

Photo credit: markjhandel on Flickr
I realized rather abruptly over the weekend that we are actually more than halfway through November! Which means the holidays, and snow, and 2016 are upon us—which, I just, I don't even.

But! That means it's time for the next Fixing the First Page giveaway! Yay!

For those who’ve missed it in the past, 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 seventeenth public critique on Writability, do the thing with the rafflecopter widget below. You have until Saturday, November 21 at 11:59 EST to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

10 Diverse 2016 Books I’m Psyched About

Incredibly, 2016 is less than two months away (!!!) which means, of course, it's time to look forward to 2016 book releases! There are so many incredible books I'm looking forward to, but I thought it might be fun to highlight some books with diverse casts that I'm especially excited about. 

So here we go! 

Photo credit: Goodreads

YA Contemporary

Goodreads summary:

"10:00 a.m. 
The principal of Opportunity, Alabama's high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve. 
10:02 a.m. 
The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class. 
The auditorium doors won't open. 
Someone starts shooting. 
Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student's calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival."

Diversity note: This is Where it Ends is a f/f story with PoC main characters. 

Photo credit: Goodreads
YA Contemporary

Goodreads summary: 

"The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl? 
Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. The thing is . . . Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in uber-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s so-called “normal” life. 
On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s REALLY like to be a gender-fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything."

Diversity note: As you can see from the summary, Symptoms features a genderfluid protagonist—which I have literally never read ever. And I can't wait. 

Photo credit: Goodreads

YA Fantasy

"Heidi Heilig’s debut teen fantasy sweeps from modern-day New York City to nineteenth-century Hawaii to places of myth and legend. Sixteen-year-old Nix has sailed across the globe and through centuries aboard her time-traveling father’s ship. But when he gambles with her very existence, it all may be about to end. The Girl from Everywhere, the first of two books, will dazzle readers of Sabaa Tahir, Rae Carson, and Rachel Hartman. 
Nix’s life began in Honolulu in 1868. Since then she has traveled to mythic Scandinavia, a land from the tales of One Thousand and One Nights, modern-day New York City, and many more places both real and imagined. As long as he has a map, Nix’s father can sail his ship, The Temptation, to any place, any time. But now he’s uncovered the one map he’s always sought—1868 Honolulu, before Nix’s mother died in childbirth. Nix’s life—her entire existence—is at stake. No one knows what will happen if her father changes the past. It could erase Nix’s future, her dreams, her adventures . . . her connection with the charming Persian thief, Kash, who’s been part of their crew for two years. If Nix helps her father reunite with the love of his life, it will cost her her own."

Diversity note: Nix, the MC, is Hapa, one of the love interests is Persian, and there's lots of Hawaiian mythology incorporated throughout. 

Photo credit: Goodreads

YA Sci-Fi

Goodreads summary: 

"January 29, 2035. That’s the day the comet is scheduled to hit—the big one. 
Denise and her mother and sister, Iris, have been assigned to a temporary shelter outside their hometown of Amsterdam to wait out the blast, but Iris is nowhere to be found, and at the rate Denise’s drug-addicted mother is going, they’ll never reach the shelter in time. 
A last-minute meeting leads them to something better than a temporary shelter: a generation ship, scheduled to leave Earth behind to colonize new worlds after the comet hits. But everyone on the ship has been chosen because of their usefulness. Denise is autistic and fears that she’ll never be allowed to stay. Can she obtain a spot before the ship takes flight? What about her mother and sister? 
When the future of the human race is at stake, whose lives matter most?"

Diversity note: Quoting from Corinne Duyvis herself, “The protagonist is an autistic, biracial, part-Dutch part-Surinamese Black girl. The story also features a prominent bisexual trans Black girl, as well as lesbian, Muslim, and Jewish characters, among others.”

Photo credit: Goodreads

NA Contemporary

Goodreads summary:

"Perpetually shy, Quinn Mathers is content to remain in the shadow of his brash best friend Jess Hartman. But before their college graduation, he and Jess have planned one last hurrah: a spring break Caribbean cruise. 
And it won’t be just any cruise. On board are members of the reality show Trip League, which follows young twenty-somethings on adventures around the world. Since the show’s beginning, Quinn has been fascinated by J. R. Butler, with his amazing body, warm eyes, and killer grin. Unfortunately, he’s straight—or so the world thinks. 
At nineteen, J. R. signed a contract to play straight for the show, and there’s no way to get out of it now. Yet with each passing day, Quinn and J. R. find it harder to keep their hands off each other and to keep out of the camera’s frame. But when the lens finally focuses on them, J. R. must decide if he’s willing to risk his career by admitting his bisexuality, and Quinn must determine if he's bold enough to stand in the spotlight with the man of his dreams..."

Diversity note: This is the third book in Megan's awesome m/m NA series! Trust the Focus and Focus on Me have been some of my favorite NA romances ever. So. 

Photo credit: Goodreads

YA Fantasy

Goodreads summary:
"Nathan Byrn is running again. The Alliance of Free Witches has been all but destroyed. Scattered and demoralized, constantly pursued by the Council’s Hunters, only a bold new strategy can save the rebels from total defeat. They need the missing half of Gabriel’s amulet—an ancient artifact with the power to render its bearer invincible in battle. 
But the amulet’s guardian—the reclusive and awesomely powerful witch Ledger - has her own agenda. To win her trust, Nathan must travel to America and persuade her to give him the amulet. Combined with the Gifts he has inherited from Marcus, the amulet might just be enough to turn the tide for the Alliance and end the bloody civil war between Black and White witches once and for all…" 
Diversity note: Nathan, the MC, is biracial and (probably?) bisexual. Part of the love triangle in the series involves Gabriel.

Photo credit: Goodreads

YA Contemporary

Goodreads summary:
"A big-hearted novel about being seen for who you really are. 
Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. She's determined not to get too close to anyone. 
But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can't help but start to let him in. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself--including her past. But Amanda's terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won't be able to see past it. 
Because the secret that Amanda's been keeping? It's that she used to be Andrew. 
Will the truth cost Amanda her new life--and her new love?"

Diversity note: If I Was Your Girl features a transgirl protag! Which I am very excited to read. And kind of awesome fun fact: the model on the cover is also trans. :)

(no cover yet)

Timekeeper by Tara Sim (Fall 2016)
YA Fantasy

Goodreads summary:

"Every city in the world is run by a clock tower. If one breaks, time stops. It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old Danny knows well; his father has been trapped in a town east of London for three years. Despite being a clock mechanic prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but time itself, Danny has been unable to free his father. 
Danny’s assigned to a damaged clock tower in the small town of Enfield. The boy he mistakes for his apprentice is odd, but that’s to be expected when he’s the clock spirit who controls Enfield’s time. Although Danny and the spirit are drawn to each other’s loneliness, falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, no matter how cute his smiles are. 
But when someone plants bombs in nearby towers, cities are in danger of becoming trapped in time—and Enfield is one of them. 
Danny must discover who’s stopping time and prevent it from happening to Enfield, or else he’ll lose not only his father, but the boy he loves, forever."

Diversity note: As you can see from the summary, Timekeeper is an m/m time-travel fantasy. :D

Photo credit: Goodreads

Bad Boy by Leah Raeder (May 31)
NA Contemporary

No current Goodreads summary but it's a Raeder book so I'm excited as hell.

Diversity note: Features a transguy as one of the major characters—woot! Plus Raeder's books tend to have a very diverse cast in general, so I'm sure there will be other factors.

Photo credit: Goodreads

YA Contemporary

Goodreads summary:

"When 17-year-old Bo is sent to a school for troubled youth, he believes he’s actually at The Academy, a home for kids who, like Bo, have superpowers. There, he falls in love with Sofia, a quiet girl with a tragic past and the power of invisibility. 
But after she commits suicide, Bo is convinced that she’s not really dead, but stuck somewhere in the past, and it’s his job to save her. In her first contemporary novel, New York Times bestselling author Beth Revis guides us through the mind of a young man experiencing mental illness and grief."
Diversity: Bo, the protagonist, has an unspecified mental illness.

What diverse books are you looking forward to that are releasing next year? 

Twitter-sized bite: 

What diverse books are you looking forward to that are releasing next year? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Debut Lessons by Kate Brauning

Photo credit: Xelcise on Flickr
NOTE: Hey everyone! Today I've got a really special guest post from Kate Brauning, author of How We Fall, which has just had its paperback release! Woot! Kate's going to share some lessons she learned from debuting—hope you guys enjoy!

Hello, readers! It's Kate here. I'm so happy to be here with Ava with a post for writers on my paperback release blog tour. One year ago, my debut novel was released in hardcover. It’s been hectic, it’s been hard, it’s been wonderful. It’s been more fulfilling than I ever expected. And last week, the paperback released, so I'm here to talk about six things I've learned during my debut release:

  1. Focus on writing a better book. I can’t control reviews, publication timeline, what other fabulous book releases the same week, deadlines, or bestseller lists. I can’t control how much my publishing house invests in my book, whether the concept appeals to readers, or whether YA contemporary is hot right now. Not everyone is going to like a first cousins romance, and a lot of people are going to really not like it. What I can do is write the best book I possibly can—and then to make it even better. “Good enough” is not good enough. If you know you struggle with pacing, don’t let that remain an issue. Tackle it. Resolve it. If you suspect there’s a tension wobble somewhere, dig into the problem. How We Fall had both of these issues, but I didn’t listen to myself and kept plowing on through drafts, revising other things and ignoring those problems because I didn’t know what to do about them. I convinced myself it wasn’t that big a deal, that no book was perfect. Don’t do that. Have the guts to stop, evaluate, and dig into those problems you half-suspect are there. Don’t stop at “good enough.” Go all the way. My writing, my book, is what I can control. I can become a better writer, I can push myself, and I can write a better book.

  2. Books are made in revisions. The first draft of How We Fall was 60,000 words, and it’s now 89,000. The story was there in the first draft, mostly, but it needed a lot of work. In its final version, the mystery is darker, the romance between the cousins is a little more obsessive, and the pacing is much faster. Between revisions with critique partners, my agent, and my editor, it went through six major rounds of revisions. Even in final edits, it gained a new first chapter and a new final chapter. Revisions made my ugly first draft almost an entirely new book.

    Don’t get discouraged when you’re drafting if you’re not seeing magic happen. That magical touch and those insightful moments you see in great books aren’t magic at all. They’re the result of blood and sweat. First drafts are limp and flat and awkward—that’s normal. The depth and layers come as you revise. And revise. And revise. Revisions are where it becomes a book.

  3. Teach your gut, then follow it. Writers get told a lot to follow their intuition. And that’s great advice—as long as you’re training your intuition. Good writers aren’t born knowing how to magically write brilliant books. They learn and learn and learn until it becomes second nature. So read, and read a lot. A book a week—or two. Consume, so you can see what’s been done and what hasn’t, and how it was done, and how you could do it differently or better. Read out of your genre to see what those authors tackle, and how they pull it off. Make your own blend. And as you’re reading so much, and reading new and different things, dissect what you’re reading to see what worked, what didn’t, and why. Teach your gut, and then listen to it when it says something is forced or too thin or just right.

  4. Keep your eyes on your own plate. When I was querying, it was sometimes a struggle to not be jealous when someone else signed with an agent. When I was on submission, it was hard to not be jealous when someone else landed a book deal. Even though I was happy for my friends, it often turned into a “does this mean I’m not as good?” self-defeating little sad-party. And now that I have a book out, there are other authors’ awards, bestseller lists, and publicity and buzz I could be upset over.

    But no one else’s success diminishes mine. One of the most wonderful things I’ve been realizing as I find critique partners and connect and blog with other authors, particularly in YA, is that we’re much more colleagues than competitors. Readers can pick up my book, and they can pick up someone else’s, too. Another author’s success doesn’t limit or detract from mine. What does limit my success is me looking at someone else’s plate, and wishing I had what they had, and letting my own work suffer.

  5. When family and friends say, “I read your book!” don’t say, “what did you think of it?” That almost never turns out well, especially if the people saying it are friends or family. If they loved it, they will most likely tell you without you having to ask, and if they didn’t love it, you probably don’t want it to turn into an awkward moment. Instead, I say, “thank you so much for reading!” and divert the discussion.

    Great follow-ups can be asking them if they’ve read anything else lately, mentioning something you’ve read and loved, or talking about the publishing journey instead of the book. Friends and family are often curious about it, and talking about the story you wrote is just one way they might try to connect with you over that topic. If you’re getting the feeling they want to talk not just about books in general but about your writing, turn the discussion toward how exciting it was to get your author copies, or how long it’s been a dream of yours to be published, or any detail like that. And when you can, change the topic. Short and sweet is generally less likely to be awkward.

  6. Be deliberate when discussing your choices with friends and family. The more common advice is just to not discuss them, but that can also mean you miss out. The best and worst moments involving friends and family dealing with my book were discussing those hot-button topics. For example, since I write YA, the things that people close to me were bringing up were questions and comments like “I didn’t think the swearing was necessary.” “There are some pretty high heat make-out scenes for a teen book. Do you think that’s appropriate?” or “I just can’t see why you would write a romance since it has all that angst.” “So you let them drink under age?”

    Every one of those issues are things I’m passionate about, and they’re areas where I want the people close to me to understand what I’m doing and not think less of me for making choices I strongly believe are positive ones. And that makes any discussion of those things risky.

    I don’t want to always divert the conversation, because engaging in conversation about why swearing can belong in YA is a great topic and I want to share my beliefs with people who are close to me. If it’s not for you, then by all means avoid it, but if you want to bring your family in a little more, the best way I’ve found to deal with it is to be intentional about picking the place, the time, and the people. The family dinner table with a mixed group is likely not the time. A crowded room where people can mishear and others can jump in without having heard the context is likely not the best place. An event that's special to you, like a signing or launch party, is not the time. And there are some people who are more interested in hearing what you have to say in order to respond, not necessarily in order to understand—and that’s where I usually don’t want to discuss the issue. It won’t be productive. Some of my relatives have different beliefs and no matter what explanation I have, it won’t be a productive conversation there, either. But if you have family and friends who are up for a genuine discussion, I think it can be great to go for it, in small pieces. It also may help to discuss those issues in general, and not as they relate to your particular book. Some of the best conversations I’ve had with some of my relatives came from that, and I’m closer to them and more open with them now because of it.

So set strong boundaries with friends and family, keep in mind that genius writing likely won’t happen in the first few drafts, and train your instinct. Read out of your genre, read a lot, focus on your own successes, and keep writing the best book you can front and center. This career takes blood and sweat and persistence, but to me, every bit is worth it.

About the Book:

How We FallEver since Jackie moved to her uncle's sleepy farming town, she's been flirting way too much--and with her own cousin, Marcus. Her friendship with him has turned into something she can't control, and he's the reason Jackie lost track of her best friend, Ellie, who left one knows where. Now Ellie has been missing for months, and the police, fearing the worst, are searching for her body. Swamped with guilt and the knowledge that acting on her love for Marcus would tear their families apart, Jackie pushes her cousin away. The plan is to fall out of love, and, just as she hoped he would, Marcus falls for the new girl in town. But something isn't right about this stranger, and Jackie's suspicions about the new girl's secrets only drive the wedge deeper between Jackie and Marcus. Then Marcus is forced to pay the price for someone else's lies as the mystery around Ellie's disappearance starts to become horribly clear. Jackie has to face terrible choices. Can she leave her first love behind, and can she go on living with the fact that she failed her best friend?

How We Fall by Kate Brauning
Goodreads Book Giveaway 
How We Fall
by Kate Brauning

Giveaway ends November 30, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

How We Fall is available through:

Author Bio: Kate Brauning grew up in rural Missouri and fell in love with young adult books in college. She now works in publishing and pursues her lifelong dream of telling stories she'd want to read. This is her first novel. Visit her online at or on Twitter at @KateBrauning.

Twitter-sized bites:
What lessons did @KateBrauning learn from debuting? Find out in her guest post on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet
HOW WE FALL author, @KateBrauning, shares 6 lessons she learned from debuting. #pubtip (Click to tweet)

Vlog: On Writing the Perfect Project

Does the perfect project exist? I'm answering a question from a lovely viewer/reader today. 

Twitter-sized bites:

Does the perfect WIP exist? @Ava_Jae shares her thoughts in today's vlog. (Click to tweet
Writer @Ava_Jae says not to put the pressure of The One on any WIP. What do you think? (Click to tweet
"It's natural to be nervous & uncertain about your MS. Just don't let it stop you from writing." #vlog (Click to tweet)

Diverse Books Resource List

Photo credit: Yours truly
Being part of the online bookish community and very much supportive of the We Need Diverse Books movement, I've seen a lot of really amazing lists of diverse books for readers to easily find. It occurred to me, however, that most of these lists are pretty scattered all over the interwebs, and so it might be good to put a bunch of them together on the same page to make it easy for readers looking for all manner of diverse books to be able to go to one place. 

Thus the idea was born! And I started searching. 

While this is by no means an exhaustive list, I was able to find a pretty sizable amount of really awesome curated lists that bring attention to books with representation all across the board. I'll try to update this post as I see new lists, but this is what I have so far and I think it's a pretty decent start. :)

The whole list is organized alphabetically. Enjoy! 

Disability lists:

Race, Ethnicity, & Religion-related lists:

QUILTBAG+ lists:

Lists that reach across categories:

* = suggested from readers! Thanks, guys! :)

Where do you go to find diverse books?

Twitter-sized bite: 
Looking for places to find diverse books? @Ava_Jae puts together resources to find representation across the board. (Click to tweet)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...