Vlog: You Asked, I Answered 3!

You've asked me questions! And while I can't answer all of them, today I've answered some of the most popular ones. Enjoy!


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How do you balance writing & life? Or avoid procrastination? Gabe (@Ava_Jae) answered these questions and more in today's AMA answers! (Click to tweet)

Vlog: Ask Me Anything (About Writing) 3!

Have writing, publishing, or book questions? I have answers! Ask your questions in the comments—and vote for your favorite questions. I'll pick some to answer in upcoming vlogs!



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Have writing, publishing, or book questions? Gabe (@Ava_Jae) is taking them on their channel! (Click to tweet

Vlog: Can Books Be Scary?

It's Halloween...tomorrow! So today I'm posing a question I haven't answered for myself: can books be scary?

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Can books really be scary? Join the discussion on Gabe's (@Ava_Jae) channel. (Click to tweet

Vlog: On Writing & Burnout

In which I get real about burn out and trying to write through it.


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Gabe (@Ava_Jae) gets honest about writing and the realities of burn out. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: My Very First Manuscript

You asked, I answered! Today I'm talking about my very first manuscript—from how it came to be to what I learned from the experience.


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Gabe (@Ava_Jae) talks about their very first manuscript, why it's staying trunked forever, and what they learned from it. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: When You Get Stuck in the Middle of Your WIP

You asked, I answered! Today I'm talking about what to do if you get stuck in the middle of your WIP...and you don't like to plot.



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What do you do if you get stuck in the middle of your WIP and you don't like to plot? Gabe (@Ava_Jae) shares one strategy to get out of a rut. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: How to Write Third Person When You're Used to First

You asked, I answered! Today I'm talking about the easiest way to think about writing third person when you're used to writing in first.


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Want to dabble with third person but have only ever written in first? Gabe (@Ava_Jae) shares some tips on trying out the new perspective. (Click to tweet)

THE RISING GOLD Pre-Order Campaign!

What's this? A real blog post? Indeed!

Special occasion because my third novel, The Rising Gold, will be out in just over a month! And as before, there are goodies for pre-orders!

If you pre-order The Rising Gold from any store in any format before 10/2/18 and have a U.S. mailing address (again, I'm sorry international friends), you will get:

  • Signed, very pretty bookplates for Beyond the Red, Into the Black and The Rising Gold (unless you only want one or two, in which case just let me know). The bookplates are different for each book and they are beautifulllll.

  • Beyond the Red, Into the Black and The Rising Gold bookmarks (again, unless you only want one or two, which is totally fine!). These are also very pretty if I do say so myself. 

So many things! I'm so psyched to get these goodies out to everyone and also share this book. It's hard to believe I'm actually done with this trilogy and I feel so honored to be able to share the full story with everyone. I hope you all love it as much as I do.


To make things easy for you, here is a sample of links you can pre-order The Rising Gold from:



Also! If you haven't read Beyond the Red yet, but are curious about the trilogy, that's cool! Beyond the Red's paperback is available for purchase and Into the Black's paperback releases on September 4th and there will be a sneak peek at The Rising Gold at the end of the paperback. You can get that in many places as well, such as:




So that about covers it! I hope you guise are as excited as I am, and I look forward to putting together pre-order goodies for everyone!


So I've pre-ordered, how do I get the goodies?


Glad you asked! Just e-mail your receipt and U.S. mailing address to avalonjaedra @ gmail on or before 10/1/18 at midnight EST. That's it!


Hooray!


Twitter-sized bite:

THE RISING GOLD is almost here and you can get signed bookplates and bookmarks for pre-ordering! (Click to tweet)

Vlog: About Showing vs Telling

You asked, I answered! Today I'm talking about the common advice "show don't tell" and whether that *really* means you should absolutely never tell. (Spoiler: it doesn't.) 




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Does "show don't tell" *really* mean you can never tell? Gabe (@Ava_Jae) breaks down what this common advice means about telling in your writing. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: On Realistic Expectations & Adjusting Goals

Today I'm talking about a lesson I had to learn the hard way: namely, how to be flexible and adjust your goals when life gets in the way of writing.


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What do you do when life gets in the way of your writing? Gabe (@Ava_Jae) talks maintaining realistic expectations and adjusting your goals. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: On the Implicit Promise

You asked for more info on the implicit promise, and I am delivering in a longer-than-normal vlog. Today I'm talking about the implicit promise at length—with examples from two great books.


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What is the implicit promise and how can you implement it? Gabe (@Ava_Jae) breaks down this great opening enhancer YA examples. (Click to tweet

Vlog: My Debut's Publication Timeline

You asked, I answered! Today I'm talking about how long it took from BEYOND THE RED's first draft to publication—and what you can expect, if anything, in terms of a publication timeline.


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How long does publishing take? Gabe (@Ava_Jae) talks the timeline for their debut & what you can expect, if anything, in terms of a publication timeline. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: You Asked, I Answered 2!

Last week you asked me many, many questions! And while I can't answer all of them, I am answering some of the most popular ones today. Enjoy!


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What if you're average at writing? How do you respond to an agent request? Gabe (@Ava_Jae) answers these writing questions and more in today's vlog. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: Ask Me Anything (About Writing) 2

Have writing, publishing, or book questions? I have answers! Ask your questions in the comments—and vote for your favorite questions. I'll pick some to answer in upcoming vlogs!


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Have a writing, publishing, or book-related question? Gabe (@Ava_Jae) is taking questions to answer on their channel! (Click to tweet)

Vlog: How to Brainstorm Great Plot Twists

How do you come up with a great plot twist? Today I talk about my two main methods and how sometimes things don't always go to plan—and that's a good thing. 

Vlog: How to Be a Good CP

You asked, I answered! Today I'm talking about how to be a good critique partner to your critique partners.


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What tips would you add to the list? 

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What are some ways to be a good critique partner? @Ava_Jae breaks it down in today's vlog. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: An Important Update

I've been getting questions about my gender and sexuality on YouTube for some time now. So. Let's talk about it.

Vlog: How Do You Know When You're Ready to Write Your Book?

You asked, I answered! Today I'm talking about how to tell when you have enough of a plot to write an entire novel.


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How do you know when you're ready to write your book? @Ava_Jae talks brainstorming & plotting a new WIP idea in today's vlog. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: 5 Queer Books by Queer Authors I'm Excited About

It's Pride Month! So for fun today I'm talking about queer books by queer authors I'm excited to read—and so should you be. 


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What queer books are you excited to read this year?

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It's Pride month! Want to support queer books written by queer authors? @Ava_Jae shares some great options. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: On Working with Editors

Today I'm answering related questions I've gotten for a little while: what's it like to work with editors both in traditional publishing and freelance circles?


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What do you think?

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Curious about what it's like to work with an editor in traditional publishing or freelance circles? @Ava_Jae breaks it down. (Click to tweet)

Cutting Back

Photo credit: mind on fire on Flickr
So. I'm sure you've probably noticed that for the first time in seven years, I've been missing blog posts as of late.

Sorry about that.

At this point, I think I have to come to terms with the fact that I'm overwhelmed. I thought things would get better after my school semester ended—and they have!—but I still have so much to do between freelancing, CP stuff, and my own writing that I feel perpetually behind everything which has not been awesome. And I've been so overwhelmed with that stuff that unfortunately I've been dropping the ball with blog posts.

So I think it's finally time I admit I need a break.

I'll continue posting my vlogs here—but if you really want more blog-like posts, you'll want to go to my Patreon. I do post there every month with updates, including newsletter like formats and random musings. Even the lowest tiers get access to the casual posts I put up every so often.

But mostly I need to buckle down. I haven't been able to touch revisions on a manuscript I desperately need to get out to my CPs—and I'm dedicating the rest of the day today to do that. But I also need to fully plot a book and write the first draft this summer, and much to my alarm May is nearly over. I'm also over twenty books behind on my reading goal of the year, so all of this is to say I need to give myself more space to focus on words, and reading—and, you know, breathing.

I'll keep posting here with updates, random writing posts and what not, but irregularly.

Thank you all for your support and patience.

<3

Vlog: Was I Ready to Write a Series?

Today's question digs into my experience debuting with a trilogy—and whether I felt ready to tackle three books when I agreed to do so.




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Have you ever considered writing a series? 

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In today's vlog, @Ava_Jae answers whether or not they felt ready to tackle a trilogy with their debut. (Click to tweet)

What Feels Like Home

Photo credit: gary.hge on Flickr
From May 10-15, I was in Michigan, visiting family in the house I'd lived in for roughly two years.

I've had a rather migratory life.

In my twenty-six years, I've lived in six homes and two dorms scattered across three states. My late teens and early twenties in particular were especially uprooted—between colleges and family moves I was constantly aware that wherever I was was temporary, that I wasn't going to stay. This made a lot of things awkward—especially relationships—but the most lasting effect was I never really felt at home.

Which, you know, comes with knowing you don't plan to stay. You don't want to get attached to anything—not even a building—if you know you'll be packing up and going elsewhere soon.

But as I flew back to my apartment, in the lovely city that welcomed me back in September, I was struck by a realization. Though I've only been here for about eight and a half months, for the first time in literally years...I really feel at home.

For the first time in ages I'm planting roots. I'm planning to stay. I'm making long-term relationships and collecting things of my own and most of all I feel good here. I can really say it's good to be home.

Which, to put a writing spin on this, has me thinking: what is home to my characters?

The answer, of course, will vary manuscript to manuscript and character to character. But I think it can be an interesting question to consider while drafting—and you never know what insights it might give you into your characters' minds.

What is home to your characters? 

Twitter-sized bite:
After 6 homes, 2 dorms, & 3 states @Ava_Jae considers what feels like home to them—& how to use that question to develop characters. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: On Book Ideas and Organization

Answering more related AMA-week questions! This time on idea generation and keeping track of ideas for your WIPs.


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How do you keep track of your ideas?

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How do you keep track of your ideas? @Ava_Jae shares their strategy in today's vlog. (Click to tweet)

On the Cusp of an Exhale

Photo credit: Marcelo Campi Amateur photographer on Flickr
I've just walked out of my last day of class of my first year of grad school.

Wow.

I'm not 100% done with everything—have one more thing to turn in, but that just requires light revisions before handing it over. And that has weirdly coincided with my publishing deadlines, which also still need to be turned in, but only require light revisions. So I can see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. I'm on the cusp of an exhale.

I've had an incredible first year. And an incredibly busy first year, lord I've been juggling so many things. And this summer I'm going to be ramping up the writing and reading with the time I had to spend on school stuff.

But overall, I feel good. I made it (almost). I've done the hard part (all of it). It's been a wild time and I'm so glad I'm here.

Now the things I'm looking forward to:

  • finishing revisions on my YA Thriller and getting that out to my CPs and agent
  • plotting and first drafting my first MG ever (!!!)
  • READING. ALL. THE BOOKS. ALL OF THEM. 
  • playing Assassin's Creed: Origins. Also Horizon Zero Dawn. 
  • having an actual social life (whaaaat?) 
  • my first Pride :)

Lots to look forward to, lots to do. But the hardest part of this too-much-work mountain is over, and that feels really damn good.


What are you plans for the summer? 

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What are your writing/reading plans for the summer? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: On Finding Motivation to Finish Your WIP

Got two related questions during AMA week on one important topic: how do you stay motivated to finish writing a whole book? So let's talk first drafts and making it to The End.


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Where do you find motivation to finish your manuscripts? 

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Struggling to find the motivation to finish your WIP? @Ava_Jae shares some thinking that helps them reach The End. (Click to tweet)

Guest Post: On Inclusion and Representation by Ariel Kalati

NOTE: Hey everyone! As I buckle down to try to finish final papers, I've got a special guest post for you guise from Ariel Kalati, of the Ch1Con and Ch21Con convention team! It's a great annual convention I absolutely encourage you to consider, and this year they'll have speakers including Karuna Riazi, Amanda Foody, and Christine Herman, which is pretty cool! Hope you enjoy the guest post!




Hi, I’m Ariel Kalati, and I do want to talk to you all about Ch1Con and Ch21Con. First off, though, I’ve promised some insightful publishing thoughts. Over the last few years of being part of publishing Twitter, I have met so many amazing people and seen so many organizations working towards diversifying publishing. What particularly intrigues me is the need for #OwnVoices work- not just representation of marginalized groups, but the presence of marginalized people in all parts of the publishing process.

The need for #OwnVoices is there for many reasons: more accurate representation, providing income for marginalized people, and ideally one day, a shift in the power dynamics of the publishing world. However, I’ve noticed a reason that is more personal and emotional in nature, but not any less important. Being surrounded entirely by people who don’t understand your identity and your struggles can be scary. Even with allies, it can be alienating. And seeing books that are only published by privileged authors can cause that same sense of alienation.

Panels and attendees at publishing conferences can be just as important. To create a truly effective and open publishing community, you need all sorts of voices. Groups like We Need Diverse Books have been calling out whitewashed panels for years now. But smaller organizations and individuals can also work to ensure a diversity of voices. At Chapter One Events, for example, one of our foremost goals is to make sure that every young writer who attends feels safe and feels that their individual voice can be heard. A major way to ensure that is to support all kinds of marginalized identities, in places like our author panels and speaker lists, and by using our online presence to support #OwnVoices books.

I don’t think we’re a perfect organization in this regard yet. But I think that moving towards diversity is about wanting to help alleviate that sense of alienation for marginalized people. And creating a safe space for young writers to congregate and learn about their craft goes hand in hand with that goal. I hope that Chapter One Events follows in the footsteps of other great nonprofits and writing organizations in creating safety and community for all voices.

Make sure you check out Ch1Con and Ch21Con! 

How to Revise a Book

Photo credit: freestocks.org on Flickr
  1. Get your edit letter from your critique partner.
  2. Go over everything you need to fix.
  3. Wallow in the enormity of what you have to do.
  4. Eat your feelings in ice cream.
  5. Look at that edit letter again, this time while taking deep breaths.
  6. Translate your edit letter into actionable checklists.
  7. Figure out a solution for each issue you need to tackle.
  8. Make some tea.
  9. Tweet that you're in your revision cave for the foreseeable future.
  10. Put on your noise-cancelling headphones and favorite playlist.
  11. Revise.
  12. Keep revising until you're too tired to continue.
  13. Rinse and repeat the next day.
  14. And the next.
  15. And the next.
  16. Until
  17. revisions
  18. are
  19. done.

How do you revise your books?



Vlog: On Dealing with Writerly Struggles

Today I'm answering another question from Ask Me Anything week! This time about dealing with writerly struggles—because they do not go away.


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What writing struggles have you dealt with?

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How do you deal with writing struggles? @Ava_Jae talks about their own struggles—and how they never really go away. (Click to tweet)

I Have Been Terrible at Reading

Photo credit: malias on Flickr
It's April and I've only read ten books so far this year. And I feel bad about it. It's not as if I have a shortage of books I have access to—I'm fortunate enough to both generally be able to buy books when I want them and also often have access to free ARCs or final review copies from my grad school program and day job.

So what this means is I actually own a lot of books I want to read—my physical TBR shelf is nothing to scoff at. But what I have an abundance of in books I lack in time and energy.

I try to cut myself some slack. I know I have approximately a million things going on right now—grad school, part time job, book edits, my social life, etc. So it makes sense that I might find it slightly difficult to squeeze time in there to read, but that doesn't stop the part of my brain that makes it clear in no uncertain terms that my reading lag is some kind of personal failure. 

Granted, I know that's not true, but it still feels not great to not be reading much when you're fully aware of how important reading is in your field and also you want to. 

Anyway, sometimes schedules don't line up the way we'd like and make reading more difficult—and I'd like to acknowledge that, because I'm sure I'm not the only one. I'm hopeful things will be easier on the other side of book deadlines and finals but...we'll see. 

Do you ever struggle to squeeze reading into your schedules?

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Do you ever struggle to squeeze reading into your schedule? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: You Asked, I Answered!

Last week you asked me many, many questions! And while I can't answer all of them, I am answering some of the most popular ones in this slightly longer vlog. Enjoy!



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How do you come up with titles? What are signs your writing is close to publishable? @Ava_Jae answers these writing Qs & more in today's vlog. (Click to tweet)

On Revising with Flashcards

Photo credit: freestocks.org on Flickr
While working on The Rising Gold revisions, as you all know I am doing, I decided to try something a little different. I was going to do my revising in passes method, as I usually do, but I wanted something a little more concrete than my usual Evernote list to help guide me through the different issues I had to focus on.

So I pulled out my flashcards.

On each flashcard, I wrote down the main issue I needed to fix, then the way(s) I intended to fix it. So, for example, one flashcard might say:

THIS IS A PLOT HOLE

  • Fix scene A by xyz
  • Add scene B where abc
  • Cut mentions of THIS DOESN'T MAKE SENSE

Except, you know, with specifics to the manuscript and what, exactly, I'm fixing. 

Once I had a stack, I organized them by difficulty. So the most difficult issues I needed to fix—the ones that required multiple steps to fix—I put up top to tackle first, and the easy issues I put at the bottom. How you prioritize is up to you—sometimes I like to put easy ones first to ease myself into the revisions—but this time I wanted to get the more difficult things over with so they weren't hanging over my head as I worked. 

As I made adjustments, I'd check off each bullet point, and eventually when I'm completely done tackling the issue I'll check off the whole card and start a done pile. Then I'll get to watch my issues pile shrink while my progress pile grows, which I think will be nicely gratifying. 

I haven't used flashcards like this before, but I like it so far. It was the extra little something I needed to visualize my revisions and feel prepared enough to dive into the work.

Have you ever used flashcards for revisions in a similar way? 

Twitter-sized bites:
Not sure where to start with revisions? @Ava_Jae suggests planning with flashcards. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: Ask Me Anything (About Writing)!

Have writing, publishing, or book questions? I have answers! Ask your questions in the YouTube comments—and vote for your favorite questions. I'll pick some to answer in upcoming vlogs!


Twitter-sized bite:
Have a writing or publishing question? Author & freelance editor @Ava_Jae is taking questions to answer in AMA-style vlogs! (Click to tweet)

How to Use Isolation with Revisions

Photo credit: https://toolstotal.com/
Once upon a time, back in 2015, I got editorial feedback from my critique partners and was—shall we say—a little overwhelmed with just how much work I had ahead of me. So I sat down and started my journey of revision refinement, in which I tweaked the way I revise my manuscripts, until now, three years later, it's become an expected part of my revision process. 

I've been thinking about that again while processing the editorial letter for The Rising Gold.

I still revise in passes. And while I do sometimes still draw up my categories the way I did three years ago whenever the occasion calls for it (by character, plot, world building, etc.) I now also go even more deeply than that and tackle things issue by issue.

That is, I look at whatever problem I need to fix, then go through the manuscript and only fix that problem, in however many scenes require altering, and I don't fix anything else until I've finished addressing whatever problem I'm isolating.

The issues I use this method on, of course, are larger-scale issues. Inconsistent characterization, or a large plot problem, or a gap in world building—something along those lines. And it works well with the way my brain works—I like to be able to focus on one thing at a time, and this forces me to do exactly that.

Then, when I'm done fixing one problem, I take a deep breath, smile, and move on to the next problem.

How do you tackle large-scale revisions?

Twitter-sized bite:
How do you tackle large-scale revisions? @Ava_Jae shares their isolation method to avoid overwhelm. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: 5 Great Books on my TBR

What books am I excited to read these days? Let's talk!


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What books are you excited to read?

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Want more books to add to your TBR? Of course you do! Check out @Ava_Jae's vlog on 5 books they're psyched to read. (Click to tweet)

On Dealing with Writerly Disappointments

Photo credit: ImAges ImprObables on Flickr
Last week I got a bit of bad writing-related news. While the news had nothing to do with publishing (so don't worry!) it did mess up some of my plans which had been in the works for over a year.

So that sucked.

After I got over the initial shock and disappointment, however, it forced me to really reprioritize my projects and consider what the best next step was for my writing career.

The answer was honestly easy enough: finish revising the manuscript I've been working on forever so I can get it to my CPs and agent.

Having a productive response to bad news helped me feel better about it. I spent a day just a couple days after I got the news completely dedicated to revising that manuscript. I didn't finish, but I hit the halfway point, and I think I should be able to pound out the rest of the revisions with another dedicated day or two.

You can't always control the way various writing opportunities come and go, and there are a lot of external factors that are entirely out of our control. But you can control the way you respond, because ultimately, writing the next book is what matters.

How do you deal with writerly disappointments? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
How do you deal with writerly disappointments? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: All About Binge Writing

What is binge writing? And how do I use it to fit book stuff into my overly-packed schedule? Today I'm talking about momentum, time, and figuring out what works best for you.


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Are you a binge writer?

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What is binge writing? And how does @Ava_Jae use it to fit book stuff into their packed schedule? #vlog (Click to tweet)

Writing Taught Me About Myself

Photo credit: Kamil Porembiński on Flickr
I've been thinking, lately, about how much of myself I put into my characters.

It used to be more subtle. With Eros, I put a lot of my own struggles feeling between cultures as a pale Latinx person navigating Cuban and Mexican identities while benefitting from light-skin privilege, and frequently being assumed to be white. With Kora, I put my own experience of feeling overburdened with responsibilities as a young person, and what it's like to live with that kind of pressure.

With the projects I'm working on now, it's not so subtle. And I like it that way.

I'm currently juggling three projects that I'll be tackling in different stages after The Rising Gold is completely done. All three of them feature Latinx, trans masculine protagonists. Their stories, personalities, worlds and experiences are all different, but they have that in common and I'm delighted that they do.

But long before I'd come to terms with my trans masculinity, writing was quietly teaching me about myself.

Before I began actively questioning my gender identity, I gave myself "permission" to learn about trans masculine people by writing a manuscript about a trans guy. It was a terrible manuscript and will probably never come out of the trunk ever, but at the time I needed that excuse of "this is research for a book" to feel safe enough research and learn.

Around that time I also wrote a Mulan-esque "girl disguises herself as a boy" story, in which the protagonist realizes she's much more comfortable with a masculine presentation than she ever was with a feminine one. That's another WIP that will stay trunked for reasons, but I wrote that WIP—and most tellingly, a scene where she cuts her hair off, looks in the mirror and really sees herself for the first time—something like six months before I did that very same thing myself. Before I was even actively considering cutting my hair so short.

I look back at my writing and laugh because so much of what I was unconsciously keeping quiet was there in my work, completely unintentionally. Writing gave me permission to explore boundaries that felt off-limits in my everyday life, and for that, I'm incredibly grateful.

Writing taught me about myself long before I knew just how much there was left to learn.

Now my choice of characters and themes are absolutely purposeful. But it feels good—really good—to put the things that have been not-so-quietly living in my head on the page. And I hope, one day, others like me will get to read it and think look, it's me.

Has writing taught you anything about yourself? 

Twitter-sized bite:
Has writing taught you anything about yourself? @Ava_Jae opens up about how their writing helped them discover their trans masculinity. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: THE RISING GOLD Cover Reveal!

Surprise! BEYOND THE RED 3's cover is here! And it is glorious! 



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Twitter-sized bite:
Have you seen the cover for @Ava_Jae's third novel, THE RISING GOLD? (Click to tweet)

How Many POVs Are Too Many?

Photo credit: Ram Balmur on Flickr
Judging by the various critiques I've done over the years, point of view, it seems, trips a lot of writers up. It's easy enough to understand why—when you come up with a great cast of characters, it can be tempting to think the more perspectives in the story, the more readers will connect with characters—and therefore, the story. Furthermore, exploring different character perspectives can be a great way to get to know the characters, which then makes it much easier to write them as fully realized people in your novel.

Only problem is too many POVs in a novel can make a story confusing, unfocused, and leave writers connecting with no one at all. But how many perspectives are too many?

The truth is, there isn't a magic number, because it's going to vary novel-to-novel. But the key to figuring it out is answering this question:

Whose story is this novel?

This requires paring down to the core of your story. It means thinking about what the story is really about and who the story is really about. Usually the answer will be one, maybe two characters, but sometimes the answer will be a little bigger than that. That's fine, the key is to just be honest with yourself when you answer the question.

Remember, when it comes to novel-writing, readers rarely need the perspectives of various periphery characters in order to understand the story. Sometimes—I'd wager many times—a minimal approach really works best.

How do you determine who your novel is really about?

Twitter-sized bite:
How many POVs are too many? And how can you tell? @Ava_Jae breaks down this common WIP problem. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Winner #42!

Photo credit: Clever Cupcakes on Flickr
I am ridiculously sick! With the flu! Which is why I am doing what I said I wouldn't and using a Friday post to announce the winner of the forty-second fixing the first page critique.

(Sorry, guise! There will be a real post next week.)

Anyway, congrats to

YEVHENII POKUTNII!

Yay! Congratulations, Yevhenii!

Thanks again to all you wonderful entrants! And for your patience! And things!

Vlog: Are Writing Classes Necessary?

Do you need to take writing classes to get published? Are they even helpful? Today I'm sharing my experience with creative writing in academia.


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Have you ever taken a writing class? 

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Do you need to take writing classes to get published? Are they even helpful? @Ava_Jae shares their experience w/ creative writing in academia. (Click to tweet)

On Compartmentalizing

Photo credit: Alex Abian on Flickr
Like many writers, I juggle a lot of things at once.

Right now I have grad school. A part-time job. Freelance editing. And I'm an author with an active social media presence.

This month, alongside my regular responsibilities (the part time job, freelancing, social media things, everyday life stuff, etc.) I also had my third book due to my editor, as well as two essays. I tackled the book three revisions by doing what I know my brain does best: binge editing, in which I literally dedicated an entire day to revisions until it was done. That worked really well and allowed me to get that major responsibility out of the way so I could then focus on...everything else.

I won't pretend it's perfect—the stress has literally made my chronic illness flare up multiple times this month. But as I'm nearing the light at the end of the tunnel I'm feeling as though it might just be possible to do everything I need. Hopefully.

I still have all the other things due. But I've been realizing, as of late, the way I have to handle things is one at a time. I feel a little lighter knowing I got one major deadline down, and now I'm tackling the rest with new energy. And I'm thinking that maybe I should handle the some of my responsibilities the same way.

I compartmentalize a lot, but as I'm often juggling A Lot, I've found that it's really how my brain works best. If I can focus on one aspect at a time, and ignore the others while I'm getting one thing done, then I don't get overwhelmed with the mountain of things I need to tackle. And with each completed compartment, I feel even more prepared to handle the next.

This isn't going to work for everyone, obviously. But it's how I've been handling what is essentially four jobs, this semester, and I think I'm going to implement it even more as I go on. Because figuring out what strategies work best for your brain can go a long way toward not dropping all the balls at once.

Do you compartmentalize?

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How do you juggle multiple, major responsibilities while still meeting your deadlines? @Ava_Jae shares their experience. (Click to tweet

Vlog: Writing a Synopsis Before First Drafting??

What is a synopsis, why do so many writers hate it, and why in the world would I write one *before* the first draft? Today I'm sharing the plotting tool I never expected to like.


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Have you ever tried writing a synopsis before the first draft?

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Writing a synopsis before the first draft is a thing? @Ava_Jae vlogs about the plotting tool they never expected to like. (Click to tweet)

Resources for Revision

I'm currently in the middle of revisions for both The Rising Gold and my #ownvoices project, so to say I have revision on the brain is an understatement. I use a couple programs to keep me on target and keep track of my progress, including:


  • Scrivener. I do all my first drafting and a big chunk of my revisions—any revisions before I send my project to my agent and/or editor, basically—in Scrivener. I like how I can visually track what I've added with different colors, so I can watch the unfolding development just through the colors in my manuscript. Plus Scrivener makes big picture edits—edits that involve moving scenes around or deleting them entirely—a lot easier because you can edit through the cork board.



  • myWriteClub. I still use myWriteClub to track my revisions! I enjoy having progress bars so I can see how much I've done, and it helps particularly on those days when I feel like I've worked hard but made little (or not enough) progress.

  • Tide. This is a new app I've added to my arsenal thanks to Katie Locke! This app basically has a timer and focus mode, where you work while the timer is going and then take a break when the time is up. If I'm having trouble focusing, it sometimes helps me shut out the distraction of my phone and focus on my work in snippets. Unrelatedly, I've started using the sleep mode too that has calming sounds to lull you to sleep then wakes you up with birds singing, which is kinda nice.

What programs do you use to revise?

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What programs do you use to revise? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: How to Write Memorable Kiss Scenes

How do you write a YA kiss scene that's memorable for all the right reasons? Today I'm talking about some key things to remember while your characters smoosh their faces together.



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What tips do you have for writing kiss scenes?

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How do you write a YA kiss scene that's memorable for all the right reasons? @Ava_Jae shares their tips. (Click to tweet)

On Grad School and Getting My MFA

Photo credit: permanently scatterbrained on Flickr
I'm now in my second semester of grad school, where I'm getting my MFA in Writing for Children, and life is good. Ridiculously busy—especially when I'm on deadline like right now—but good. To think that this time last year I was agonizing over whether moving 800 miles on my own to get a degree I didn't necessarily need was a good idea—and boy, am I glad I went for it because it's been an excellent idea. The best decision I've ever made, to be honest.

A big part of that is because I'm finally independent and in a place where I can make connections and plant roots—which feels so nice. But the program so far has been really valuable, too.

I'd heard loads of horror stories about MFAs, and how so many of the programs looked down on genre fiction and even those that didn't often looked down on children's literature—so as a YA spec fic author, I was initially hesitant to apply anywhere. Until I did my research and found a handful of programs nationwide that offered a children's lit-specific program in which I could continue honing my skills in the field I actually enjoyed.

Though it's still earlyish in my program, I can say it's definitely done that. But moreso, it's pushed me outside of my comfort zone. In my first semester I dabbled with Middle Grade and Picture Book writing for the first time—and now I have a Middle Grade project I'm excited about and moving forward with. With frequent critiques and need to constantly output work, I've got multiple projects fresh on my mind at all times, which keeps me creatively churning one way or the other.

Starting in the fall I'll begin working with a mentor with a chosen project, which will be a whole 'nother level of critique and creating new words. I'm excited about the future and juggling projects like never before, but at the end of it all I've have even more work I can use in my career. And that's pretty excellent.

While I certainly wouldn't say an MFA is essential to being an author (or a bachelor's degree for that matter, or college education at all), it's a step I'm really glad I took, both as a way to get me to spread my wings, and in terms of my creative output. I've got a ton going on right now, but it's all stuff I love.

Twitter-sized bite:
Curious about what getting a kidlit-focused MFA is like? @Ava_Jae shares their experience so far. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: What's it Like to Go on Submission?

What's it like to go on submission when traditionally publishing? What does going on submission even mean? Today I'm talking about this very important part of the traditional publishing process.




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Any questions about the submission process? I'm happy to answer what I can! 

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What's it like to go on submission? @Ava_Jae talks about the last step before getting a book deal. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Critique Giveaway #42!

Photo credit: Happy Krissy on Flickr
So! Been a while since we've had a Fixing the First Page critique! I've decided I'm moving to an every-other-month schedule, but since we haven't had one since November, I'm kicking off February with a giveaway.

So let's do this, shall we?

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.

Rules!


  • 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 forty-first public critique on Writability, do the thing with the rafflecopter widget below. You have until Thursday, February 8 at 11:59 PM EST to enter!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Vlog: On Covers When Traditionally Publishing

What's it like to get your cover done when you're in traditional publishing? Today I'm talking about my experience—and what the process often is like for traditionally published authors.


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What have some of your favorite recent covers been?

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What is it like getting your book cover when you're traditionally published? @Ava_Jae breaks down their experience + what to expect. (Click to tweet)

Discussion: Do You Know Your Writing Weaknesses?

Photo credit: jvleis on Flickr
When working on Beyond the Red back in 2013 and 2014, if you'd ask me what my number one writer weakness was, I'd have answered without hesitation: world building.

"This book needs more world building" was a critique I got for my second draft, third draft, fourth, fifth—god knows how many drafts but right up until the end, more world building I became all too familiar with. And it's a good thing, too, because, well—those drafts absolutely needed more. 

I think, however, going through that process taught me a ton about world building, because more world building has now been tattooed to my soul, and I've become much more aware of my tendency to go lighter on world building and description in earlier drafts, and so it's something I think about much more actively while first drafting and doing initial revisions. I can almost pre-empt some of the questions my CPs and agent will have and fill in many of those gaps before I send it out.

So I wouldn't say world building is still a weakness for me, not anymore, and that's a pretty cool thing. Because it's a great reminder you can (and should!) always grow as a writer. 

Of course, now I have new weaknesses to look out for. Every time I eliminate one crutch word, I find another (or rather, my CPs find another), and I've been challenging myself to be more aware of avoiding passive or fully reactionary characters earlier in the plotting process, so I can avoid that issue while I'm ahead. But I think the most important thing is to be aware of your weaknesses—or at least be on the look out for them—because that's the only way you can strengthen those problem areas both in the manuscripts you're working on and in yourself, as a writer. 

What are your writing weaknesses?

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What are your writing weaknesses? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: Is Your Protagonist Too Passive?

Is your protagonist too passive? What does that even mean? Today I'm talking about a common protagonist issue and why it's important to keep in mind.



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Have you ever written a passive protagonist?

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What is a passive protagonist and why is that a problem? @Ava_Jae breaks down this common character issue in today's vlog. (Click to tweet)

10 2018 Books to Be Psyched About

I have been woefully behind on keeping up with 2018 books I want to read, in part because I'm drowning in 2017 (and earlier) books I still want to read and in part because life has been overwhelming. But it is now 2018! And there are amazing books entering the world! So let's talk about books I'm excited about—and then I want to hear all about the ones you're excited about, so I can add to my pitifully small 2018 TBR. Yes? Yes. 

In order of publication!

Photo credit: Goodreads

Love, Hate, & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
YA Contemporary
January 16
"A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape--perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera. 
American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school. 
There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs."

Photo credit: Goodreads

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
YA Fantasy
February 6
"Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful. 
But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.  
With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever."

Photo credit: Goodreads

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza
 by Shaun David Hutchinson
YA Fantasy
February 6
"Sixteen-year-old Elena Mendoza is the product of a virgin birth. 
This can be scientifically explained (it’s called parthenogenesis), but what can’t be explained is how Elena is able to heal Freddie, the girl she’s had a crush on for years, from a gunshot wound in a Starbucks parking lot. Or why the boy who shot Freddie, David Combs, disappeared from the same parking lot minutes later after getting sucked up into the clouds. What also can’t be explained are the talking girl on the front of a tampon box, or the reasons that David Combs shot Freddie in the first place. 
As more unbelievable things occur, and Elena continues to perform miracles, the only remaining explanation is the least logical of all—that the world is actually coming to an end, and Elena is possibly the only one who can do something about it."

Photo credit: Goodreads

All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages by Saundra Mitchell
YA Anthology
February 27
"Take a journey through time and genres and discover a past where queer figures live, love and shape the world around them. Seventeen of the best young adult authors across the queer spectrum have come together to create a collection of beautifully written diverse historical fiction for teens.  
From a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in war-torn 1870s Mexico featuring a transgender soldier, to two girls falling in love while mourning the death of Kurt Cobain, forbidden love in a sixteenth-century Spanish convent or an asexual girl discovering her identity amid the 1970s roller-disco scene, All Out tells a diverse range of stories across cultures, time periods and identities, shedding light on an area of history often ignored or forgotten."


Photo credit: Goodreads

A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena
YA Contemporary
February 27
"A timeless exploration of high-stakes romance, self-discovery, and the lengths we go to love and be loved.  
Sixteen-year-old Zarin Wadia is many things: a bright and vivacious student, an orphan, a risk taker. She’s also the kind of girl that parents warn their kids to stay away from: a troublemaker whose many romances are the subject of endless gossip at school.  You don't want to get involved with a girl like that, they say. So how is it that eighteen-year-old Porus Dumasia has only ever had eyes for her? And how did Zarin and Porus end up dead in a car together, crashed on the side of a highway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia? When the religious police arrive on the scene, everything everyone thought they knew about Zarin is questioned. And as her story is pieced together, told through multiple perspectives, it becomes clear that she was far more than just a girl like that.  
This beautifully written debut novel from Tanaz Bhathena reveals a rich and wonderful new world to readers. It tackles complicated issues of race, identity, class, and religion, and paints a portrait of teenage ambition, angst, and alienation that feels both inventive and universal."

Photo credit: Goodreads

Barbed Wire Heart by Tess Sharpe
YA Thriller
March 6
"Never cut the drugs—leave them pure.
Guns are meant to be shot—keep them loaded.
Family is everything—betray them and die. 
Harley McKenna is the only child of North County's biggest criminal. Duke McKenna's run more guns, cooked more meth, and killed more men than anyone around. Harley's been working for him since she was sixteen--collecting debts, sweet-talking her way out of trouble, and dreading the day he'd deem her ready to rule the rural drug empire he's built.
Her time's run out. The Springfields, her family's biggest rivals, are moving in. Years ago, they were responsible for her mother's death, and now they're coming for Duke's only weak spot: his daughter. 
With a bloody turf war threatening to consume North County, Harley is forced to confront the truth: that her father's violent world will destroy her. Duke's raised her to be deadly--he never counted on her being disloyal. But if Harley wants to survive and protect the people she loves, she's got to take out Duke's operation and the Springfields. 
Blowing up meth labs is dangerous business, and getting caught will be the end of her, but Harley has one advantage: She is her father's daughter. And McKennas always win."

Photo credit: Goodreads

Dread Nation
 by Justina Ireland
YA Historical Fantasy
April 3
"Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations. 
But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems."

Photo credit: Goodreads

A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney
YA Fantasy
September 25
"The first time the Nightmares came, it nearly cost Alice her life. Now she's trained to battle monstrous creatures in the dark dream realm known as Wonderland with magic weapons and hardcore fighting skills. Yet even warriors have a curfew. 
Life in real-world Atlanta isn't always so simple, as Alice juggles an overprotective mom, a high-maintenance best friend, and a slipping GPA. Keeping the nightmares at bay is turning into a full-time job. But when Alice's handsome and mysterious mentor is poisoned, she has to find the antidote by venturing deeper into Wonderland than she’s ever gone before. And she'll need to use everything she's learned in both worlds to keep from losing her head . . . literally."

Photo credit: Goodreads

The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke
YA Retelling
October 2
"Farrar, Straus and Giroux has acquired The Boneless Mercies, a genderbent Beowulf re-imagining in which four mercenary girls chase glory and honor by battling a monster that's been terrorizing a nearby earldom. Publication is slated for Fall 2018."

(cover to be revealed)

What If It's Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
YA Contemporary
October 2
"What If It’s Us opens as Arthur and Ben meet at the post office as Ben is shipping his ex-boyfriend’s things back to him. They subsequently endure the frustration of knowing there was a missed connection, before the universe pushes them back together again in a series of failed “first” dates." 

So many books, so little time! What new books are you looking forward to this year?

Twitter-sized bite:

What 2018 books are you excited about? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)
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