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2015 Contests for Young Adult Writers

In less than 2 months 2014 will be gone. Forever.

For my part I will spend last days of this year finishing a new manuscript (a YA summer camp themed romantic comedy). I will also be contemplating whether or not to enter said manuscript in a writing contest. 

To get warmed up I compiled a list of writing competitions that caught my eye. 

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

Amazon.com’s yearly manuscript competition which includes a YA category.

In 2014 Amazon received about 10,000 entries. They chose a finalist from each of the five fiction categories, all of which received an Amazon publishing contract and a $15,000 advance. Of the five finalists, they select a Grand Prize winner who received a $50,000 advance.

2015 Deadline: TBA – usually February 
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Happy Book Lovers Day!

In honor of the National Book Lovers Day I just placed an order for some amazing YA books. I have high expectations for this bunch, specially because the list include some of my favorite authors: Jay Asher, Gayle Forman and Stephanie Perkins.

I am down to one book from my Summer Reading List so it’s time to replenish the stash. Pronto!

Here are the beautiful books I just purchased. I included the blurbs for good measure.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saez

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship-the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

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The (real) Query Process… and how not to go insane while refreshing your inbox

Here I am, my second visit to Queryland, just a little wiser than the first. Once again I find myself experiencing the nausea inducing compulsive “inbox refresh.” So in order to share my misery with the world, I thought I would write a list of how this query process goes… for all of you who haven’t had the pleasure of the experience.

Here it is in 10 easy steps:

1) Pour your heart into a manuscript for months or years. This is key to heightening the query experience.

2) Decide that you are ready to query! Now is when the crazy starts.


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Evernote Tips for Writers

This blog post is based on a recent one-hour course I offered during the Romance Writers of America Annual Conference in San Antonio, TX.

It is a compilation of tips and how to’s for Evernote’s FREE online version. Many more features are available in the Premium (paid) version, but for the purposes of my research as a writer the free version works just fine.

Evernote is an online curator of webpages, notes, picture, audio files and even handwritten notes. I use it for all my online research as a quick method to save research and make annotations. And since it is a web-based product, I can log in anywhere to add content, regardless of whether I’ carrying my laptop or not.

THE WEB CLIPPER: 

My favorite Evernote application is the Web Clipper, which you can download for free, here: http://evernote.com/webclipper

The Web Clipper adds a curating tool – in the shape of a little elephant – to your browser which with one click lets you can save any online content into your Evernote files.

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My Summer Reading List

It has been a great Summer for reading! And so far I’m on track to finish the seven books I set out to read back in May.

The stories and the characters I have met have surpassed my greatest expectations.

First on the list is the Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by the incredibly talented Laini Taylor. 

WOW! I devoured these three books in two weeks. Taylor has a rare talent for weaving in spiritual concepts in a way that is unique, original and utterly brilliant. The icing on the cake is her writing. Its beautiful and thoughtful, like a poem wrapped in a novel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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A baby? No thanks. I’m saving my womb for the alien apocalypse.

This weekend my husband Chris and I are going to a family reunion. It’s my family. Puerto Rican. Loud. And all over your business.

My grandparents are celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary and while I’m both thrilled and honored to be a part of such a magnanimous event, I’m dreading the question that I know, for sure, will be repeating itself. Over. And Over. Again.

What are you waiting for to have kids? Don’t you want kids? Why don’t you want kids?

That’s more like three questions. But they all sound like one long run-on question. 

“Well,” I want to tell them, “it’s not that I don’t want kids. It’s that I’m saving my womb for the alien apocalypse. You know, like Sigourney Weaver in the movie Aliens.”
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Of Love and Brownies: My Favorite Brownie Recipe

My husband and I recently sold and moved from the house that was our first home as a couple. The last week that we lived in our old home was a stressful time full of boxes and bubble wrap. But it was also a welcomed change, one that we had wanted for a while.

For days, I went back and forth between these two emotions eager to feel something else. Until I did. About halfway through the week the longing began. I felt the ghost of the memories we had shared in that home. Memories of becoming a family, of being loved and accepted, of wholehearted laughter and joy. And memories of our neighbors and their beautiful friendships. I was filled with such deep gratitude for the last four years of our life. We had been incredibly lucky to be surrounded by loving people in every direction of our home. And our lives.

Our lovely neighbors, Jeanine and Shirley
Our lovely neighbors, Jeanine and Shirley

One of our neighbors, Jeanine, shared with me the recipe for the brownies she regularly made for us. Hands down the best brownies I have ever had. I mean, you-can’t-just-eat-one kind of brownies. When I asked her for the recipe she told me about her secret ingredient, cherry extract. But even when I tried to duplicate the recipe, it just wasn’t the same. Her brownies tasted of friendship, kindness and generosity. Of being a grandmother and having lived life long enough to know and appreciate the things that truly matter. That wisdom was her true secret ingredient.

In our neighbors honor, here is Jeanine’s brownie recipe.

Jeanine’s Friendship Brownies 

Begin with a “Betty Crocker” dark chocolate brownie mix and prepare the mix according to directions on the box.

Add 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract to the 1/4 cup water required in the preparation (this always enhances the flavor of chocolate!).

And 1/4 teaspoon of cherry extract (the “secret” ingredient!).

Add 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Spread in a 9 x 13 baking pan (not a dark one).

I line the bottom with no-stick foil, and they come out of the pan so much easier.

Sprinkle with 1 cup of chopped pecans.

After baking, put them on a cooling rack.  Cut when completely cool.  These freeze beautifully too.

Enjoy in the company of family and friends!

Yeay for tomorrow! And for infinity! And The Fault in Our Stars!

Super excited! Tomorrow, Thursday at 9 p.m. I will be joining the legions of nerdfighters watching the opening of The Fault on our Stars. I will laugh and cry, mostly cry, as I watch Hazel and Augustus travel together towards their inevitable oblivion.

In their honor, here are some of my favorite quotes. Thanks to all the very talented artists who took the time to make them pretty.

See ya’ll tomorrow!

 

 

 

There are little changes, and there is moving

I can think only of a few situations, other than death, divorce or a major illness, that are more stressful than moving. Moving is the disrupter of lives, making your existence a miserable juggling act of packing stuff into boxes and then trying to remember what you packed into what box.

This has been my life since January. It’s now May. And there is no end to the madness.

Hanging out with the Property Brothers after they renovated our home.
Hanging out with the Property Brothers after they renovated our home.

My husband and I just sold our home after a stint on HGTV’s Buying and Selling with the Property Brothers. Drew, Jonathan and the crew were amazing to work with! And thanks to them our house sold in 24 hours.

The problems is, our new house won’t be ready to another 3 to 4 months. So with this post I welcome my summer of bohemian living, shacking up with my husband in a tiny one bedroom apartment. It’s college all over!

What our new house currently looks like. A pile of dirt and boards.
What our new house currently looks like. A pile of dirt and boards.

I wish I could say how super zen I have been about it all. I wish I could say I have welcomed change and all its manifestations with an open heart. That would be wonderful. But the writer in me, the one that wants to spend every breathing moment of my day working on my book, can’t wait to be done with all this moving shenanigans and be settled in one place.

All I have to say is thank goodness for coffee houses! In fact, the saving grace of our tiny apartment is the AMAZING coffee house located about 200 feet from our front door. My husband in all his wisdom, tasked me with the job of finding us a place to live for the summer. My only requirement was that I had a place to escape too nearby so that I could finishing the mammoth task of revising my book before a second round of submissions.

View from the balcony of the coffee house! I love this place!
View from the balcony of the coffee house! I love this place!

So to all of you writers who are happily reading this post from the comfort of your very organized and box free home… I’m happy for you!!! Really, I am. And also an itsy-bitsy, tiny, little bit jealous. In a good way of course.

Feel free to share your moving horror stories below. Just so that I know that I am not alone in a universe ruled by cardboard boxes.

Happy writing ya’ll!

The Little Mermaid, Fanfiction and Why I Want a Happy Ending

***SPOILER ALERT***This post contains Divergent Trilogy spoilers*** 

Fans of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” would be horrified to know the truth behind its happy ending. Hans Christian Andersen, the story’s original author, intended his little mermaid to watch her prince marry another woman, a day before her own tragic demise. In the end, the little mermaid sacrificed her own life for the happiness of the prince she loved.

I confess, if I had to pick between these two endings, Disney wins. After all, hadn’t she already been through enough having to lose her voice to the witch?

As every reader knows, characters are at the mercy of the writers that create them. But that was until the advent of fanfiction – stories that adapt characters, plot or settings from other original work. It is mostly written by fans of popular fiction and then shared online for free.
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