Gifts for Writers in Your Life

Photo credit: Eric Torrontera on Flickr
So the holidays are upon us, which means the time to buy gifts for your loved ones is here! As I've been planning all my purchases for family and friends, it occurred to me I haven't really talked about gifts for writers, so now seems like a perfect time to do it.

So without further ado, here are some gift ideas for the writers in your life. Or, you know, ideas to give your friends and family for you. ;)


Writing craft books

Writing craft books are always a great choice, because there's always more for writers to learn. Some that I've read and loved or are on my list to read include:





Nerdy mugs ($12.00-19.90)

There are lots of places to find nerdy mugs, like Barnes & Noble, Hot Topic, Out of Print and Etsy. Some fun options include B&N's Harry Potter Ceramic Cauldron mug, Hot Topic's Disney Alice in Wonderland Cheshire Cat mug and Harry Potter Hogwarts Red mug, Out of Print's Banned Books Heat Reactive Mug or some of the many cute selections from missbohemia's Etsy store.





Bookish candles ($18.00)

Frostbeard Studio has a really great collection of bookish soy candles. With choices like Book Cellar, Headmaster's Office, New Paperback, Old Books, Oxford Library, Reading at the Cafe, Study Break Chai Latte, Wizardry Buttery Drink and more, there's a scent for every book nerd.




Nerdy shirts, scarves, sweaters ($20.00-$42.00)

There are so many places to get bookish clothes and accessories. TeeFury has a whole book collection including The Little Wizard and Extraordinary Novelists, Litographs has awesome selections like Peter Pan,  Scarlet, and The Declaration of Independence, Out of Print has great choices like their  When in Doubt (Harry Potter Alliance) Sweatshirt and Fantastic Books & Where to Find Them t-shirt, and Storiarts on Etsy has some gorgeous bookish scarves like Shakespeare's Hamlet Book Scarf, and The Raven by Poe Book Scarf, and also these cool Alice in Wonderland Writing Gloves.


Scrivener ($45.00)

I've written about the wonders of Scrivener many times. While you'll probably want the writer in your life to play around with the free trial first (because it's not for everyone!), I, for one, can say Scrivener has completely changed how I tackle writing books for the better and I will never go back.




AeonTimeline ($50)

AeonTimeline is a pretty handy—and in-depth—program that could be especially useful to writers who write books with complicated timelines. Some of the features are listed here, but when I tried a free trial last year to help me work out a timeline I found it really visually interesting and useful.


E-readers

E-readers are a writer's best friend. I swear by my Nook e-ink reader, which I got years ago from someone who upgraded theirs and it still works beautifully. The one I have is discontinued but when the time comes to upgrade I'll be getting the Nook GlowLight Plus. If you're looking for an inexpensive tablet e-reader, there's Barnes & Noble's new $50 7" Nook tablet, and over on Amazon there are options like the Kindle, Kindle Paperwhite, and Fire tablet.

Noise-canceling headphones

This is a good higher-budget option if the writer in your life frequently works in noisy environments, but even if not they can be really great to help hone focus. They are, however, on the pricier end, so this would be a more luxurious gift the writer in your life would make great use of.

Cool bookends

BookRiot did a post on fifty awesome bookends earlier this year with some really cool options.

Other random suggestions: nice pens and journals, fancy teas, chocolate, bookshelves, PJ pants, fuzzy blankets, fuzzy socks, whiteboards, cork boards, and, of course, books and gift cards for books.


What writerly gifts are you craving this year? 


Twitter-sized bite: 
Not sure what to get the writers in your life for the holidays? @Ava_Jae puts together writerly gifts to consider. (Click to tweet

Vlog: On Important Post-Manuscript Breaks

NaNoWriMo is officially over, which means many of you have completed manuscripts ready for revision. But before you dive in to revisions, make sure you don't skip this important post-first draft step.



RELATED LINKS: 


Do you take breaks after finishing your first drafts? 

Twitter-sized bites:
#NaNoWriMo is over, so now what? @Ava_Jae vlogs about the importance of taking a break after first drafting. (Click to tweet)  
So you finished your first draft—now what? @Ava_Jae vlogs about developing distance from your WIP. (Click to tweet)

Diverse Books Resource List 2016

Photo credit: mine
Last year, I created my first-ever Diverse Books Resource List, a list of lists containing loads of diverse books from just about every category. While initially I'd hoped to update it indefinitely, I quickly realized that wasn't going to be feasible for me, so instead I've decided to cover every year from here on out.

So without further ado! I present to you the diverse books resource list for 2016, organized alphabetically. Enjoy!


Body-Positive lists:



Disability lists:



Race, Ethnicity, & Religion-related lists:



QUILTBAG+ lists:



Intersectional lists:



If you have any 2016 lists you'd like me to add—especially for the thinner categories—let me know! I'd be happy to see this list grow. :) 

Where do you go to find diverse books?


Twitter-sized bite:
Looking for places to find diverse books? @Ava_Jae puts together resources from 2016 to find rep across the board. (Click to tweet)

So NaNoWriMo is Over

Photo credit: greg westfall. on Flickr
Incredibly, it is now December 2nd, which means NaNoWriMo 2016 has come to an end. This has been a particularly difficult NaNo for many—with what happened with the election at the beginning of the month, a lot of writers were completely thrown off and understandably found it difficult to get back into the swing of things again. Not to mention all of the very important events that have happened after the election, which have proved to be the kind of distraction from writing you really can't ignore, because it's too important.

So all of that is to say NaNoWriMo was understandably difficult for a lot of writers this year. Luckily, some writers on Twitter are putting together a NaNoWriMo re-do, headed by literary agent @HannahFergesen, under the hashtag #NaNoReDo.


If you have finished NaNoWriMo, however, congratulations! I did manage to finish #MagicMurderMayhem's first draft (complete around 60,000 words), which I am both relieved and happy about, because it means I wrote three manuscripts this year, which is a first. It was more of a struggle than usual because even without the election stuff, I've been the busiest in my life this month—but it was definitely rewarding.

So if you've finished NaNoWriMo, now what? I've already written a blog and posted a vlog on Post-NaNoWriMo steps, so I won't reiterate everything, but the most important part is this: take a break. Whatever a break means for you, do it—for me, it means not writing until 2017 (unless something deadline-related comes in, of course), reading, getting back into my exercise routine, playing some games, and enjoying the extra couple hours I have in the day. Earlier this week, for example, I finished all my daily work by 1:30PM which hadn't happened this month before at all. It was nice. :)

But the point is, absolutely make sure you give your brain a break before you dive into revisions. I always try to take at least a month off whenever possible—and given that I have two recent manuscripts to choose from when it comes to revisions, I may very well get more distance from my NaNo novel by starting the one I wrote earlier this year first.

But before I start really thinking about revising anything, it'll be time to relax, read, and enjoy not working on any particular manuscript. Because breaks are a truly important part of the writing process that shouldn't be forgotten.

Did you finish NaNoWriMo if you participated? Are you taking a break? Doing #NaNoReDo? Share your thoughts! 

Twitter-sized bite:
Finish #NaNoWriMo? Will you take a break this month, write, or revise? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Book Review: LAST SEEN LEAVING by Caleb Roehrig

Photo credit: Goodreads
I love Thrillers. Back in the day when I read mostly Adult novels, probably 80% of the books I picked up were Thrillers, so while I don't read them as often as I used to anymore, they hold a special place in my heart. So when I heard about Caleb Roehrig's Last Seen Leaving and discovered it was not only a Thriller but a Thriller with queer representation, to say that I was psyched was an understatement.

I'm glad to report that now that I've read the book, it did not disappoint.

But before I go on! Here's the Goodreads summary:

"Flynn's girlfriend has disappeared. How can he uncover her secrets without revealing his own? 
Flynn's girlfriend, January, is missing. The cops are asking questions he can't answer, and her friends are telling stories that don't add up. All eyes are on Flynn—as January's boyfriend, he must know something. 
But Flynn has a secret of his own. And as he struggles to uncover the truth about January's disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself."

So the way Last Seen Leaving is set up, it reminded me a bit of Far From You by Tess Sharpe—another YA with major queer rep in which the protagonist is trying to solve the murder of her best friend. In Last Seen Leaving, however, what happened to January isn't immediately apparent. When the book starts, Flynn learns his girlfriend has disappeared—but did she run away? Did someone take her? Is she still alive? There are immediately a lot of questions, and worse, Flynn can't tell the whole story of the last time he saw her to the police and what they argued about without admitting his huge secret: he's gay.

As the story goes on, the questions build. January's unhappy (but luxurious) home life, the lies she told people about Flynn—and the lies she told Flynn about others—the connections to who she knew and when they last saw her, and through it all Flynn isn't sure who he can trust.

This book had me ripping through the pages to answer all those questions and more—I actually read the second half of the book in a day because I couldn't put it down. I also loved how much this book played with my expectations—even when I was specifically looking for red herrings I still didn't guess what or who was behind January's disappearance. My only super-minor gripe was there were words and phrases throughout that occasionally threw me out of the narrative because it didn't really sound teenager-y to me—but it certainly wasn't distracting enough to take away from the incredible plot and characters that had me exclaiming out loud as I read.

All in all, I definitely recommend this one, especially if you like YA Thrillers and/or enjoyed Far From You. This book and its twists and characters are going to stay with me for a long time.


Diversity note: The protagonist, Flynn, is gay (which is #ownvoices rep!). There's also a minor Japanese character, and the love interest is a gay, Muslim, POC boy.


Twitter-sized bites:
.@Ava_Jae gives 4.5/5 stars to LAST SEEN LEAVING by Caleb Roehrig. Is this FAR FROM YOU-esque YA on your TBR? (Click to tweet)  
Looking for a YA Thriller w/ twists, queer rep, and an addictive mystery? Try LAST SEEN LEAVING. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: Challenges Writing BEYOND THE RED

You asked, I answered. Today I'm talking about some challenges I faced while writing BEYOND THE RED—and how I overcame them.


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What challenges have you faced with previous manuscripts?

Twitter-sized bite:
Curious about an author's challenges writing their debut? @Ava_Jae vlogs re: difficulties writing BEYOND THE RED. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Feature #29

Photo credit: Javier Vieras on Flickr
We're now in the final days of November, the holidays are upon us, and the end of the year is nearing. I love the holiday season—it's my favorite time of year, so I, for one, am looking forward to the next (expensive) month. Which means it's time for this month's Fixing the First Page Feature!

As 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.

Here we go!


Title: MAKING LOVE & MUSIC

Genre/Category: Adult Contemporary Romance

First 250 words:
"Three days into June and she was still wearing long sleeves and jeans.

Addy sighed, eying the rain-dampened pavement outside with blatant disdain. Summer was always slow to hit Canada, but this year even spring was taking its sweet time. 'It’s a cruel joke,' she told the little unicorn bobble-head stuck to the dashboard of her beat-up gold Intrepid. He nodded in agreement as she reached up to pull the car’s sun visor down. She had always been a summer girl, through and through, and this weather was crushing her soul. 
Oh well. She’d have enough time to complain about it once she was properly made-up and inside the station. 
The visor’s mirror only proved that she looked just as exhausted as she felt; not even the extra large coffee she’d purchased was going to save her. It would definitely have been wiser to make the four-hour drive home from the cottage the night before. 
Missing sleep was among her least favourite things in the world, but it was worth it. She could live with one day of caffeine jitters and sleep-deprived misery if it meant she got to spend even a few extra hours with Dad and her big sister Alexis. She loved her family more than anything, and living across the border from them was the only genuine complaint she had about her life. 
After applying a quick coat of lipstick and mascara, Addy took a moment to evaluate her quickie makeup job. 'Nope,' she sighed. 'Still look like a corpse.'"

Okay! So, first thoughts: I think this is a nice start—I enjoyed the imagery and the line at the end was fun—but it's missing any hint of conflict. As I've said in previous critiques, you definitely don't need The Problem on page one, but it can help to infuse a little foreshadowed conflict or hint of whatever is wrong to come early on, because it establishes tension right away which can pull readers in. Without it, you have an opening that's nice, but it might not grab readers or be particularly memorable.

So overall, this isn't a bad start—I just think it could use some tweaking to make it grab a little more.

Now for the in-line notes:

"Three days into June and she was still wearing long sleeves and jeans.

Addy sighed, eying glaring at the rain-dampened pavement outside with blatant disdain. You don't have to use that phrasing exactly, of course, but I tweaked the sentence to show her disdain with an action (glaring) rather than saying she's looking with disdain. Summer was always slow to hit Canada, but this year even spring was taking its sweet time. 'It’s a cruel joke,' she told the little unicorn bobble-head stuck to the dashboard of her beat-up gold Intrepid. He nodded in agreement as she reached up to pulled the car’s sun visor down. Condensed that sentence some. She'd had always been a summer girl, through and through, and this weather was crushing her soul. 
Oh well. She’d have enough time to complain about it once she was properly made-up and inside the station. 
The visor’s mirror only proved that she looked just as exhausted as she felt; not even the her extra large coffee she’d purchased was going to save her. It would definitely have been wiser to make the four-hour drive home from the cottage the night before. 
Missing sleep was among her least favourite things in the world, but it was worth it. She could live with one day of caffeine jitters and sleep-deprived misery if it meant she got to spend even a few extra hours with Dad and her big sister Alexis. She loved her family more than anything, and living across the border from them was the her only genuine life complaint she had about her life
After applying a quick coat of lipstick and mascara, Addy took a moment to evaluate her quickie makeup job. Took out quick because the speed is implied with "quickie makeup job" and you don't need to say quick twice. 'Nope,' she sighed. 'Still look like a corpse.'" I like that last line. :) 

All right, so, main adjustments here are to cut out unnecessary wordiness, but overall there wasn't that much that needed fixing, as you can see. The main thing I think needs tweaking is what I mentioned above—some conflict—but other than that I think this is a well-written start. If I saw this in the slush, I'd keep reading...but if some conflict or tension didn't come up quickly, I'd probably stop reading.

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

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


Twitter-sized bite:


.@Ava_Jae talks wordiness, adding early tension, and more in the 29th Fixing the First Page Feature. (Click to tweet)

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