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.


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?

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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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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.


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?

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

Vlog: When Should You Hire a Freelance Editor?

When should you hire a freelance editor? Do you even need one? Today I'm answering those questions and more, from the perspective of a traditionally published author...and freelance editor.


Have you ever worked with a freelance editor?

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When should you work with a freelance editor? @Ava_Jae talks critique partners & working with professionals when self or traditionally publishing. (Click to tweet)

Different Kinds of POV Slips and How to Avoid Them

Photo credit: Sonnar3 on Flickr
One of my most common critiques when editing samples or full manuscripts revolves around POV slips. POV slips are incredibly common, in large part because there's a variety of them and because, well, when you're the author who knows everything it's easy to forget your POV character isn't privy to everything you know.

POV slips,  however, can be incredibly jarring and are a glaring, guaranteed way to remind the reader they're reading a book—in the sense that the writing draws attention to itself and distracts from the story, which is the opposite of what you want.

So what are the different kinds of POV slips? Let's take a look at some:

  • The switch. This happens when the POV outright changes to another character's perspective without a scene break. While not technically a mistake in omniscient POV, in just about any other POV (first person, third limited, etc.) this is absolutely a mistake, and a confusing one at that. While it's fine to write a story from multiple perspectives (although you want to make sure you have a vital reason for doing so), you definitely want to make sure to break up the POVs. Jumping back and forth between two or more characters in a single scene without breaking them up is a surefire way to give your readers whiplash.

  • POV character knows something they shouldn't. This has a lot of varieties too, and happens most often in third person. Your POV character shouldn't know what other characters are thinking (unless they're telepathic), feeling (unless they're empathic), secretly planning, smelling, seeing, etc without the other characters telling them. So, for example, if Arya is the POV character: 
Arya laughed. Helena thought it was the most beautiful laugh she'd ever heard. 
That doesn't work because Arya can't know what Helena is thinking.  
  • POV character sees themself (without a reflection). This happens most often with blushing, but there are other similar slip ups. Basically, while a character can experience what it feels like to blush, they can't physically see their face reddening without a reflection. Which is why I tend to go with "My face warmed" rather than "My face turned red." 

There are other varieties, but the common thread of POV slips is your perspective slips outside of the limitations of the perspective. There's a reason first and third person limited are limited perspectives—it means the readers can only know what the perspective characters know. They can only experience the world of the book through the eyes of the perspective characters. And even if you're writing a book with multiple perspective characters, you have to stick with one at a time within each scene and consider what that particular perspective characters knows and experiences at that particular time. 

It can be a challenging thing for sure, but hey, no one said writing a book was easy. And in the end, the challenge can force you to think in different ways, which is never a bad thing. 

Have you made any of these mistakes?

Twitter-sized bite:
What are different kinds of POV slips and why should you avoid them? @Ava_Jae breaks down this common writing error. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: On Writing Marginalized Characters

What should you know about writing marginalized characters? Today I'm talking about some of the important things to remember.


What do you think?

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Thinking about writing marginalized characters but don't know where to start? @Ava_Jae breaks down important things to keep in mind. (Click to tweet)

Writing Plans for 2018

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So it's 2018! Now that I've done a semester of grad school I have—shall we say—a more realistic understanding of what I can accomplish while juggling grad school, part time work, and freelance work, which is to say, not a whole lot. But! I still have writing goals for the year, and given that I'll be starting a writing mentorship in the fall for school, I think grad school may even help me along.

With all of that said, here are my writing plans for 2018:

  1. Revise & turn in The Rising Gold. This one I'm actually nearly done with. I have the MS out with sensitivity readers and a CP one last time before I revise it again and then send it off to my agent and editor. After that of course will be more edits from my editor, but I'm actually nearing that stage where it's not just in my hands which is...wow. This is the year I finish my first published trilogy.

  2. Revise my #ownvoices af YA Thriller. I've been working on this book for well over a year now, and I'm actually going to try to dive back into it this weekend to give it one major revision before I send it to CPs, revise it again, and then send it to my agent and also sensitivity readers. Ideally, I'd like to get this on sub this year so fingers crossed.

  3. Draft one new book. I have two very real possibilities with lots of potential and I want to do both eventually. I'm not sure which I'll prioritize this year, but I imagine one of them will be the book I draft this year. I'll be delighted whichever one it ends up being.

So those are my plans! I think they're all manageable, especially with said aforementioned mentorship meaning I kind of have to draft something new this year ha ha. But you know, two birds, one stone, and I'm pretty psyched to see where this year goes both in my professional and personal life. I think it's gonna be a good one. 

What are your writing plans for 2018?

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What are your writing plans for 2018? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: Things to Remember While Writing Description

How do you come up with description? How much is too much? Today I'm talking about an all-too important element of writing a story: description. 


How do you tackle writing description?

Twitter-sized bite:
Struggling to get description right in your WIP? @Ava_Jae shares some description-writing tips. (Click to tweet)
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