How I Met Dusti Bowling, and her Advice for Aspiring Authors

The Briar Patch is a local bookstore near my house. I love it there and go there often. Very often, normally a few times a week, though my record is three visits in one day. My friends and I go there to obsess about books and look for new books, and even when we don’t buy anything (we’re only a bunch of schoolgirls who don’t have that much money), the people who work there don’t mind because they’re book nerds too and they get it.

This past Tuesday, Dusti Bowling, a middle-grade author came to the Briar Patch for a book signing. I admit that before that night, I had no idea who she was and wasn’t really sure if I wanted to go to her signing. However, I’m now so glad that I decided to go.

Dusti Bowling is the author of Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, as well as 24 Hours in Nowhere, The Day We Met, and The Boy Who Loved Me. I’m currently reading Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, and once I’ve read enough to make an accurate review, I’ll definitely post one.

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I went with my friend Nova, A Fangirl’s Insights, you should check out her blog too! Anyway, after the initial rush of people getting their books signed, the store was mainly quiet. To explain why we wanted her signature even though we had never read her books, I mentioned we both wanted to be authors. She immediately, got up, led us to a small area with some chairs, and sat down with us to answer any questions we had about writing. She ended up talking with us for almost an hour.

I can’t write down everything she told us about, but here are some pointers she gave us that could be helpful to any aspiring writers.

The Beginning:

The beginning of a story is extremely important because this is where readers decide if they actually want to read your writing. Dusti Bowling gave us a sequence that should be followed when beginning a story: by the end of your first page, readers should know who your protagonist is. Not information about them, but a bit about their personality, something shown in a few of their actions or the way they speak. Once readers know your protagonist, move as quickly as possible to the inciting event. “People aren’t going to read for five chapters for the story to get going, you need to move to your plot as quickly as possible.” Lastly, don’t info-dump. Don’t give huge quantities of background information at the beginning, if you do this before a reader is invested they’ll get bored.

Only Start if You’re Passionate:

Never start a piece of writing if you aren’t passionate about it; chances are, if you don’t strong aspire to create whatever your idea is, you aren’t going to finish it. Don’t try to write something that you don’t really want to write, save your time for the pieces that you truly care about.

Know the Outcome:

The end of the book is what resonates with a reader. An amazing ending can turn a mediocre book into that readers will remember and come back too; an ending that is anticlimactic after a book full of wonderful writing will cause your book to fall flat. Especially with longer pieces of writing, decide on your ending at the beginning of your writing process.

It’s Okay to Use Said:

Many English teachers create a taboo on said. They’re wrong. The thing about said is that it’s invisible. Readers see it so much that our eyes glaze over it. If you try to substitute another word in its place, that word most of time will draw attention to itself. If someone retorts something, people attention will go to the word, retort, and it will draw them out of the story. Other than shouted, yelped, whispered, murmured, it’s fine to use the word said as much as you like. Better yet don’t use any tags at all, just keep the dialogue. As long as readers can tell who’s talking, you don’t need to specify it after every quote.

Find a Writing Group:

It’s important to read and edit your writing, but it’s also very helpful to find a group of people who you can talk with about your writing. For many people, it’s easier to be motivated working with other people, and it can be helpful to have a friendly writing group to help you meet your goals and refine your writing.

Combatting Writer’s Block:

Write. This quote of Dusti’s might not be exactly word  for word, but it was something along the lines of: “Just write anything. A dinosaur could come into the room, then he begins to eat an ice-cream sundae… It doesn’t matter if what you write is completely random and you get rid of it, but what you need to do for writer’s block is just to write-through it.”

Dusti Bowling was so friendly and gave us so much helpful general and personal advice. In the back of the store, talking so animatedly about writing, she gave me so much confidence in what I could create with my writing.

 

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while! First I got cold, and lately I’ve felt like I’m drowning in schoolwork and responsibilities. But I’ll try to post more regularly!

Have you guys ever met any truly inspiring authors? Tell me about your experiences in the comments!

-Luna

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Books to be Released this Fall

It isn’t officially fall yet, but school’s started and it’s September, so we’re almost there. Because of this, I thought it was a good time to talk about the books to be released this fall that I’m most excited about. Extremely excited about.

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Archenemies by Marissa Meyer

November 6, 2018

Archenemies is the second book of the Renegades Trilogy. Renegades is about Nova, a girl living in a peaceful civilization where a group humans with special and unique powers reign after having taken over during a time of chaos. They seem like heroes of the city at first, but things aren’t really so calm. Nova hates the Renegades and wants revenge, but then she meets Adrian, a Renegade, a firm believer in justice, and a boy who manages to change everything. I’m not good at writing book reviews, but Renegades is one of the best books I have ever read, and though at I was hesitant about the superhero vibes it gave off, it’s thrilling, suspenseful, and filled with characters that seem alive. If you haven’t read Renegades yet, I now recommend skipping down to the next book so that nothing gets spoiled.

I haven’t read the book yet, so I stole this from Amazon:

Time is running out.
Together, they can save the world.
But they each other’s worst nightmare.

Nova’s double life is about to get a lot more complicated:

As Insomnia, she is a full-fledged member of the Renegades, a syndicate of powerful and beloved superheroes. She works with Adrian’s patrol unit to protect the weak and maintain order in Gatlon City.

As Nightmare, she is an Anarchist – a group of of villains who are determined to destroy the Renegades. Nova wants vengeance against the so-called heroes who once failed her when she needed them most.

But as Nova, her feelings for Adrian are deepening, despite the fact that he is the son of her sworn enemies and, unbeknownst to Nova, he has some dangerous secrets of his own.

In this second installment of the Renegades trilogy, Nova, Adrian, and the rest of their crew – Ruby, Oscar, and Danna — are faced with escalating crime in Gatlon City, while covert weapons and conflicting missions have Nova and Adrian questioning not only their beliefs about justice, but also the feelings they have for each other.

The line between good and evil has been blurred, but what’s clear to them both is that too much power could mean the end of their city – and the world – as they know it.

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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald by J.K. Rowling

November 16, 2018

“The Crimes of Grindlewald” isn’t exactly a book; it’s a movie but with it comes a screenplay by our queen, J.K. Rowling. The cover is so detailed and well-designed that we can already infer a large amount of information: there must be some action going on in Paris, I see a “NF”, most likely standing for Nicholas Flamel, the Deathly Hallows are visible in two places, I believe the “Dark Mark” is present, and of course there are a variety of magical creatures. Though a screenplay and a book really aren’t the same thing, J.K. Rowling can be trusted to both create a engrossing story, and bring us safely back home to Hogwarts.

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Grim Lovelies by Megan Shepherd

October 2, 2018

I got an advanced reader copy of Grim Lovelies early this summer to read, and these are two separate review/synopsis paragraphs I wrote.

In a land not far away, but intricately joined to ours, live the Witches, Haute, Goblins, and of course, Beasties. Five humans who were once animals have three days to find any way they can to prevent being turned back. In the course of retaining not only their bodies, but their personalities and memories, they walk the fine line between getting what they want most and and causing it to be destroyed. For magic is everywhere but comes with a cost. Readers will fall in love with Anouk, who seems innocent but becomes leader of her friends, and will be easily absorbed the flowing style of writing. Fly through Shepherd’s carefully woven tale, Grim Lovelies, and discover when the price for humanity is just too high.

Grim Lovelies is a book promising to draw in any reader wanting something unusual but enthralling. The plot is completely unique, about five humans, once animals, who have three days to prevent being turned back. The characters feel alive and find surprising alliances as the story unfolds. Anouk, the protagonist, begins as an innocent maid and goes through an extraordinary amount of development, yet this change never seems forced. The world this all occurs in at first seems like it could not be more different from ours, full of magic, yet underneath one can glimpse the similarities: prejudice, war, lust for power. With Grim Lovelies, thrillingly unpredictable, Shepherd has created a book that bookworms can not only read, but see.

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A Room Away from the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma

September 4, 2018

This book has actually already come out, but only recently, so I’d still like to promote it. I read an advanced reader copy, and it was brilliant. This book is was a great ghost story, yet there was also a huge element of reality in it. Bina, the main character, had a father who was abusive, so she and her mother left. Because the insecurity of Bina’s mother,  they became attached to another family and another man only a few days later. Though they are not the main focus of the story, the turbulent family dynamics are not glossed over. Another thing that I love is that Bina is not a badass female heroine. Don’t get me wrong, I made an entire post about those admirable ladies, but Bina is so relatable because she is an ordinary girl who’s trying to find herself and live her life peacefully. Warning: this book made me cry in the end, honestly. I didn’t realize how much I appreciated spoiler until it was gone. Suma’s writing is so graceful, and she can convey a huge amount information by saying very little.

From the back cover:

“[B]ina finds herself on the side of the road again, the city of her dreams calling for her. She has an old suitcase, a fresh black eye, and a room waiting for her at Catherine House, a young women’s residence in Greenwich Village with a tragic history, a vow of confidentiality, and dark, magical secrets. There, Bina is drawn to her enigmatic downstairs neighbor Monet, a girl who is equal parts intriguing and dangerous. As Bina’s lease begins to run out, and nightmare and memory get tangled, she will be forced to face the terrible truth of why she’s come to Catherine House and what it will cost for her to leave . . .”

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Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas

October 23, 2018

This is the last installment in the Throne of Glass series, so if you’re interested, I recommend starting in the beginning with Assassin’s Blade, the prequel. It made up of novellas about Celeana Sardothien, a teenage girl who is already the most feared Assassin of her kingdom. This is one of my very favorite series’, it’s eight books and quite a commitment, but worth it. Maas is a truly gifted author and has created a series where each book is better than the last.

I haven’t read Kingdom of Ash yet, so I stole this one from Amazon too.

“Aelin has risked everything to save her people―but at a tremendous cost. Locked within an iron coffin by the Queen of the Fae, Aelin must draw upon her fiery will as she endures months of torture. Aware that yielding to Maeve will doom those she loves keeps her from breaking, though her resolve begins to unravel with each passing day…

With Aelin captured, Aedion and Lysandra remain the last line of defense to protect Terrasen from utter destruction. Yet they soon realize that the many allies they’ve gathered to battle Erawan’s hordes might not be enough to save them. Scattered across the continent and racing against time, Chaol, Manon, and Dorian are forced to forge their own paths to meet their fates. Hanging in the balance is any hope of salvation―and a better world.

And across the sea, his companions unwavering beside him, Rowan hunts to find his captured wife and queen―before she is lost to him forever.

As the threads of fate weave together at last, all must fight, if they are to have a chance at a future. Some bonds will grow even deeper, while others will be severed forever in the explosive final chapter of the Throne of Glass series.”

Sarah Maas posted that Kingdom of Ash is 992 pages. 992 pages of book induced agony, bliss, suspense, and satisfaction. I cannot wait.

 

If you hung around during this entire spiel, I’m pretty impressed. What book above looks most interesting to you? What are you looking forward to this fall?

-Luna

The Best of Platonic Relationships

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It’s all right if it’s not a romantic relationship. But nobody should ever say, “just friends.” There is no “just.” Friendship is one of the most enjoyable parts of life and nobody needs to downplay it.

In the YA universe, it’s hard to find a book that doesn’t include any romance. And that’s not a problem, but it is important that other types of relationships develop as well. Platonic relationships are friendships were males and females can be close together and care for each other without any large assumptions.

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Girls and boys can be friends, it’s simple. Yet whenever a female character and a male character connect, everyone starts shipping them. One of my favorite friendships is in “The Lunar Chronicles” between Cinder and Thorne. They banter with each other— “You can help me pick out a crown when we’re done saving the world—” yet they’re friends and are happy staying that way. They drive each other crazy but they genuinely care about each other’s survival and happiness.

Especially in a book where there’s exceptionally strong, ideal, and slightly unrealistic love, it’s good for characters to have someone of the opposite sex who they can talk to in a slightly more detached way than they would be able to with their love interest. It’s nice to be told that you’re perfect and that everything work out no matter what decision you make, but sometimes you need someone who’s not afraid to hurt you with honesty.

The worst thing to happen to a platonic relationship is when the author decides that they want it to be more, and what used to be an amicable relationship turns into a doomed relationship, or worse, a love triangle. The best authors understand that there needs to be balance. I am not anti-romance, but I also want more than romance. I want males and females who know they can count on each other, no matter what happens and are able to leave it at that.

What’s your favorite nonphysical relationship?

-Luna

Inspiring Female Protagonists

There are so many inspiring female protagonists, which I see as a step forward in the matter of feminism, and which also makes reading even nicer. Though it isn’t obvious, there’s an art to making these uplifting females. They’re all-powerful in their own right, whether it’s bravery, knowledge, morality, love, magic, etc. But in order for a female to be inspiring to readers, instead of just being seen as super-human, they also have to be relatable. These females have to make mistakes and struggle with life. They all have a certain degree of humanity, a quality that makes them normal, a quality showing us that even if we look at ourselves and see something average, we can rise to be extraordinary. We all have it in us to help our friends, the world around us, and more than just help, we can all make a difference.

One of my favorite literary females is Hermione Granger from Harry Potter, whom I’m sure most of you know. She really touched me because she shows that it’s okay to read big books, it’s okay to be smart and a nerd. She put aside prejudices and tried to help anyone who she believed deserved it, S.P.E.W. anybody? And because she was smart and pursued knowledge, she was extremely influential in defeating Voldemort, does anybody really think Harry could have done it without her?

I’m trying not to let this post turn into a list the way mine normally do, but I have one more powerful woman I want to mention, who is Celeana Sardothien(or another name). From the Throne of Glass series, she’s a warrior and more skilled than any male in the books. She can be ruthless and brutal and deadly…yet she’s also beautiful and graceful. Celeana lets nobody define who she can be. But like anyone else…she’s breakable. She can fight as like a goddess, but she isn’t one, and has to face her vulnerabilities.

When life is hard, many of us turn to books. So we read about these females, and they guide us through our outside problems as they deal with their own. I believe that the way we turn to these strong women during hard times helps us to become strong as well.

Boy or girl,  we all need to look up to those females who show us that anything is possible, that we don’t need to wait to be saved, that we are each given a life and are free to do what we wish with it.

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Sorry, I’m reading a book I passionately love and am feeling kinda sappy. But you really can go out and change the world for the better, any of you.

– Luna

The Coolest Bookshelves and Book-nooks

As a book-nerd, I can and do read anywhere. When a book really resonates with me, I can fall in the book in a sense, and it doesn’t matter where I physically am anymore. However, there are some pretty creative bookshelves out there, and if any of you are DIY people as well as readers, these might give you some cool ideas.

A Tree of Knowledge

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It’s decorative and elegant, yet simple and gives off a natural feeling. You could dedicate different branches to your favorite authors or different genres.

A Bookshelf Chair

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It’s probably I good that I don’t have one of these, because if I could just sit amidst my books and never have to move, I’m not sure I would get up again. Except maybe for snacks. There are so many different designs of these chairs, and if you look them up online you’ll see that they’re actually not hard to get.

A Reader’s Natural Habitat

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I think libraries need to start having these. If you have a big enough bookshelf, all you need are some pillows, maybe a blanket, and you could feasibly do this. Though, it would have to be a very large bookshelf…

Recycling

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Aesthetic, with a music reference. Though most probably don’t have disposable pianos, lying around, this proves that with a few boards and nails, almost any piece of furniture can be made into a bookshelf.

Pure Coziness

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Comfortable, lots of storage, space for friends. If I had something like this I think I’d keep my few favorite books in the space inside above the couch, and all the rest outside.

A Mini-Cathedral of Books

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Just imagine how good it would feel to sit in there and be completely surrounded by books. It’s enclosed but airy enough not to make anyone feel claustrophobic. I’m picturing myself sitting in there staring up at all the books around me.

Now after showing you all of these aesthetic bookshelves, I have to admit that mine is pretty simple and I have a stack of books on the floor that I couldn’t fit in. Sigh.

Which one of these was your favorite? Comment below!

-Luna

My Favorite Retellings

All stories have the potential to be immortal. Fairy tales, legends, myths; at one point they all were just ideas that someone decided to express and others loved. Throughout time, many stories have been told and passed down so that even now people still learn about Greek gods and fairy godmothers. However, in many cases, details are lost until all that is left is a simplified plot, and then an author becomes inspired and decides to revive the story, with a twist.

Many authors write retellings, especially of fairy tales. However, there’s a strategy to writing something that both caries the spirit of the original story, and has enough novelty that readers don’t feel like they’re hearing the same story for the millionth time.

I’ve read quite a few retellings, but these are my four favorites. They’re all quite unique, but carry a similar magic that allowed them to pull me in.

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Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder, and also the rest of the “Lunar Chronicles” are some of the best books in the retelling genre. As you can probably guess, the book is based on the story, Cinderella. Though, as it is a story we have heard before, Meyer wove in twists and subplots that keep readers strongly engaged.

One of the best things about this book is the protagonist, Cinder. A lonely, abused cyborg living in a world prejudiced against her, who even in the midst of heartbreaking events, never lets anything break her. Instead of depending on a prince to save her, Cinder does the saving herself and is an inspiring female protagonist.

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Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer

Spindle Fire is based on the tale Sleeping Beauty. However, the first obvious difference between the fairytale and book is that Spindle Fire revolves around two protagonists, Aurora and Isbe, completely different girls with an unrivaled love for each other. Aurora is a bookworm who cannot speak and has no sense of touch. Isbe is a tomboy and also blind. Their strong personalities balance each others, as do their senses. Because of the different ways they receive feedback from the world, they also teach a lot about humans in general. This book made me realize how our eyes can make us so blind to everything else happening, and is full of emotion and complicated relationships.

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The Shadow Queen by C.J.Redwine

Based on Snow White, The Shadow Queen mixes action and emotion seamlessly. Lorelai, the protagonist, is kind-hearted yet strong and capable. Irina, the queen, is deliciously evil and wants Lorelai dead for much deeper than reasons that simply beauty. Kol, the prince, has his own storyline beyond his connections with Lorelai and also happens to come from a society of shape-shifting dragons. The setting is beautifully written and the land seems to have a life of its own. The characters and world are so easy to fall in love with that the battles Lorelai fights against Irina are horribly suspenseful. Though Lorelai gets close to losing everything many times, Redwine manages to keep an undertone of reality even with everything else constantly happening.

Do you guys like retellings? If so, what are your favorites? Comment below!

(I was going to add A Court of Thorns and Roses to this list, but I wasn’t sure it counted.)

-Luna

Sarah J. Maas on Kingdom of Ash Tour

For those of you who don’t know, Sarah J. Maas is the author of the Throne of Glass series, the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, and Catwoman: Soulstealer. I first read one of her books a month and a half ago, fell in love, and am currently in the process of reading everything she’s ever written.

Maas is a brilliant author for a variety of reasons. Her plots, unlike many, are thrillingly unpredictable. The characters she creates are real enough to be alive and her descriptions are detailed enough so that readers can create mental pictures, but not so detailed that there’s no imagination involved. Maas is one of the few writers who can create a series that gets better as it expands.

Now that you’ve gotten a glimpse of how obsessed I am with her (if I thought you would read it, I could rant about her for at least ten blog posts) you can understand how excited I was when I found out that she was releasing a new book, Kingdom of Ash, and that I’m going to be able to go to one of her events in New York.

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I’m an aspiring author so Maas is extremely inspirational to me, and I’m very excited! I haven’t gone yet, so I don’t have much else to say, but I’ll definitely post about the experience afterwards.

If you could meet any author, dead or alive, who would you choose? Comment below!

-Luna