Book Club Visit!

 

 

I’m so excited to be visiting Meyerland Texas!

Well, via Skype at least . . .

Mad thanks to cool mom, Julie, who nominated Eila and her crazy crew of supernatural weirdos to be the Meyerland Moms Book Club book of the month. For me, this is a super fun visit because MMBC consists of a bunch of MOMS, which means they are probably as frazzled and warped as I am!

See ya soon, ladies!

 

 

 

 

MUST HAVE YA BOOKS 2017

 

So, every summer I list the YA books I’m dying to read here on my blog. And let’s face it: I’m a book-buying addict. I have to buy more and more bookshelves to feed my need.  To that extent, I’ll tell you that Home Depot has some awesome, cheap bookcases, just FYI.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s MY must-have 2017 list:

Shalia is a proud daughter of the desert, but after years of devastating war with the adjoining kingdom, her people are desperate for peace. Willing to trade her freedom to ensure the safety of her family, Shalia becomes Queen of the Bonelands.

But she soon learns that her husband, Calix, is motivated only by his desire to exterminate the Elementae—mystical people who can control earth, wind, air, and fire. Even more unsettling are Shalia’s feelings for her husband’s brother, which unleash a power over the earth she never knew she possessed—a power that could get her killed. As rumors of a rebellion against Calix spread, Shalia must choose between the last chance for peace and her own future as an Elementae.

This intense, richly drawn high-fantasy by the author of Scarletwill hold readers spellbound.

 

A simple but forgotten truth: Where harbingers of death appear, the morgues will soon be full.

Angie Dovage can tell there’s more to Reece Fernandez than just the tall, brooding athlete who has her classmates swooning, but she can’t imagine his presence signals a tragedy that will devastate her small town. When something supernatural tries to attack her, Angie is thrown into a battle between good and evil she never saw coming. Right in the center of it is Reece—and he’s not human.

What’s more, she knows something most don’t. That the secrets her town holds could kill them all. But that’s only half as dangerous as falling in love with a harbinger of death.

 

An epic, romantic, and action-packed fantasy inspired by the tale of Rumpelstiltskin, about a bastard princess who must take on an evil fae to save her brother’s soul, from C. J. Redwine, the New York Times bestselling author of The Shadow Queen. Perfect for fans of Graceling and the Lunar Chronicles.

The world has turned upside down for Thad and Ari Glavan, the bastard twins of Súndraille’s king. Their mother was murdered. The royal family died mysteriously. And now Thad sits on the throne of a kingdom whose streets are suddenly overrun with violence he can’t stop.

Growing up ignored by the nobility, Ari never wanted to be a proper princess. And when Thad suddenly starts training Ari to take his place, she realizes that her brother’s ascension to the throne wasn’t fate. It was the work of a Wish Granter named Alistair Teague who tricked Thad into wishing away both the safety of his people and his soul in exchange for the crown.

So Ari recruits the help of Thad’s enigmatic new weapons master, Sebastian Vaughn, to teach her how to fight Teague. With secret ties to Teague’s criminal empire, Sebastian might just hold the key to discovering Alistair’s weaknesses, saving Ari’s brother—and herself.

But Teague is ruthless and more than ready to destroy anyone who dares stand in his way—and now he has his sights set on the princess. And if Ari can’t outwit him, she’ll lose Sebastian, her brother…and her soul.

 

Quinn Littleton was a mean girl—a skinny blonde social terrorist in stilettos. She was everything Emma MacLaren hated. Until she died.

A proud geek girl, Emma loves her quiet life on the outskirts, playing video games and staying off the radar. When her nightmare of a new stepsister moves into the bedroom next door, her world is turned upside down. Quinn is a queen bee with a nasty streak who destroys anyone who gets in her way. Teachers, football players, her fellow cheerleaders—no one is safe.

Emma wants nothing more than to get this girl out of her life, but when Quinn dies suddenly, Emma realizes there was more to her stepsister than anyone ever realized.

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

 

Being a bastard blows. Tilla would know. Her father, Lord Kent of the Western Province, loved her as a child, but cast her aside as soon as he had trueborn children.

At sixteen, Tilla spends her days exploring long-forgotten tunnels beneath the castle with her stablehand half brother, Jax, and her nights drinking with the servants, passing out on Jax’s floor while her castle bedroom collects dust. Tilla secretly longs to sit by her father’s side, resplendent in a sparkling gown, enjoying feasts with the rest of the family. Instead, she sits with the other bastards, like Miles of House Hampstedt, an awkward scholar who’s been in love with Tilla since they were children.

Then, at a feast honoring the visiting princess Lyriana, the royal shocks everyone by choosing to sit at the Bastards’ Table. Before she knows it, Tilla is leading the sheltered princess on a late-night escapade. Along with Jax, Miles, and fellow bastard Zell, a Zitochi warrior from the north, they stumble upon a crime they were never meant to witness.

Rebellion is brewing in the west, and a brutal coup leaves Lyriana’s uncle, the Royal Archmagus, dead—with Lyriana next on the list. The group flees for their lives, relentlessly pursued by murderous mercenaries; their own parents have put a price on their heads to prevent the king and his powerful Royal Mages from discovering their treachery.

The bastards band together, realizing they alone have the power to prevent a civil war that will tear their kingdom apart—if they can warn the king in time. And if they can survive the journey . . .

 

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

 

In the wickedly twisted finale to the acclaimed Undertow series, Eila Walker is forced to confront a shocking truth about Lawson Waite, whispered during a death-bed confession in Maia Moriarty’s decadent night club.

Desperate to kill the billionaire and destroy his notorious Gate, Eila and her crew soon find themselves tangled up with a young supernatural teen who knows the location of the Gate, and who has an appetite for revenge.

With the help of some outrageous new allies, Eila and her crew push the limits of all their abilities in an attempt to finish what Elizabeth started so long ago.

Told from the perspectives of three characters, MJ, the shifter, Eila, the Lunaterra, and Raef, the soul thief, Last Light is one wild ride into the heart of what makes us human . . . and what lies history has told.

 

It’s been happening since Min was eight. Every two years, on her birthday, a strange man finds her and murders her in cold blood. But hours later, she wakes up in a clearing just outside her tiny Idaho hometown—alone, unhurt, and with all evidence of the horrifying crime erased.

Across the valley, Noah just wants to be like everyone else. But he’s not. Nightmares of murder and death plague him, though he does his best to hide the signs. But when the world around him begins to spiral toward panic and destruction, Noah discovers that people have been lying to him his whole life. Everything changes in an eye blink.

For the planet has a bigger problem. The Anvil, an enormous asteroid threatening all life on Earth, leaves little room for two troubled teens. Yet on her sixteenth birthday, as she cowers in her bedroom, hoping not to die for the fifth time, Min has had enough. She vows to discover what is happening in Fire Lake and uncovers a lifetime of lies: a vast conspiracy involving the sixty-four students of her sophomore class, one that may be even more sinister than the murders.

 

In a land ruled and shaped by violent magical storms, power lies with those who control them.

Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora’s been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.

To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.

Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage.

She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough.

Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master.

 

Orion is a Subpar, expected to mine the tunnels of Outpost Five, near the deadly flash curtain. For generations, her people have chased cirium—the only element that can shield humanity from the curtain’s radioactive particles. She and her caving partner Dram work the most treacherous tunnel, fighting past flash bats and tunnel gulls, in hopes of mining enough cirium to earn their way into the protected city.

But when newcomers arrive at Outpost Five, Orion uncovers disturbing revelations that make her question everything she thought she knew about life on both sides of the cirium shield. As conditions at the outpost grow increasingly dangerous, it’s up to Orion to forge a way past the flashfall, beyond all boundaries, beyond the world as she knows it.

 

A fresh, humorous, and timely YA novel about two teens conceived via in vitro fertilization who go in search for answers about their donor.

Milo has two great moms, but he’s never known what it’s like to have a dad. When Milo’s doctor suggests asking his biological father to undergo genetic testing to shed some light on Milo’s extreme allergies, he realizes this is a golden opportunity to find the man he’s always wondered about.

Hollis’s mom Leigh hasn’t been the same since her other mom, Pam, passed away seven years ago. But suddenly, Leigh seems happy—giddy, even—by the thought of reconnecting with Hollis’s half-brother Milo. Hollis and Milo were conceived using the same sperm donor. They met once, years ago, before Pam died.

Now Milo has reached out to Hollis to help him find their donor. Along the way, they locate three other donor siblings, and they discover the true meaning of the other F-word: family.

 

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu—when a game called Warcross takes the world by storm, one girl hacks her way into its dangerous depths.

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

In this sci-fi thriller, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu conjures an immersive, exhilarating world where choosing who to trust may be the biggest gamble of all.

 

Here is a thing everyone wants:
A miracle.

Here is a thing everyone fears:
What it takes to get one.

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.

At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.

They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.

Maggie Stiefvater has been called “a master storyteller” by USA Today and “wildly imaginative” by Entertainment Weekly. Now, with All the Crooked Saints, she gives us the extraordinary story of an extraordinary family, a masterful tale of love, fear, darkness, and redemption.

 

Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.

 

Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized among them. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes – a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love, violating the fair folks’ ruthless Good Law. There’s only one way to save both their lives, Isobel must drink from the Green Well, whose water will transform her into a fair one—at the cost of her Craft, for immortality is as stagnant as it is timeless.

Isobel has a choice: she can sacrifice her art for a future, or arm herself with paint and canvas against the ancient power of the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

 

Based on the experience of real-life Auschwitz prisoner Dita Kraus, this is the incredible story of a girl who risked her life to keep the magic of books alive during the Holocaust.
Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Taken, along with her mother and father, from the Terezín ghetto in Prague, Dita is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp. When Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch asks Dita to take charge of the eight precious volumes the prisoners have managed to sneak past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the librarian of Auschwitz.

Out of one of the darkest chapters of human history comes this extraordinary story of courage and hope.

 

Chaol Westfall has always defined himself by his unwavering loyalty, his strength, and his position as the Captain of the Guard. But all of that has changed since the glass castle shattered, since his men were slaughtered, since the King of Adarlan spared him from a killing blow, but left his body broken.

His only shot at recovery lies with the legendary healers of the Torre Cesme in Antica—the stronghold of the southern continent’s mighty empire. And with war looming over Dorian and Aelin back home, their survival might lie with Chaol and Nesryn convincing its rulers to ally with them.

But what they discover in Antica will change them both—and be more vital to saving Erilea than they could have imagined.

 

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

 

Kat Preston doesn’t believe in ghosts. Not because she’s never seen one, but because she saw one too many. Refusing to believe is the only way to protect herself from the ghost that tried to steal her life. Kat’s disbelief keeps her safe until her junior year at McTernan Academy, when a research project for an eccentric teacher takes her to a tiny, private island off the coast of Connecticut.

The site of a grisly mystery, the Isle of Acacia is no place for a girl who ignores ghosts, but the ghosts leave Kat little choice. Accompanied by her research partner, Evan Kingsley, she investigates the disappearance of Cassie Mallory and Sebastian Radcliffe on their wedding night in 1886. Evan’s scientific approach to everything leaves Kat on her own to confront a host of unbelievables: ancestral curses, powerful spells, and her strange connection to the ghosts that haunt Castle Creighton.

But that’s all before Kat’s yanked through a magic portal and Evan follows her. When the two of them awaken 129 years in the past with their souls trapped inside the bodies of two wedding guests, everything changes. Together, Kat and Evan race to stop the wedding-night murders and find a way back to their own time—and their own bodies—before their souls slip away forever.

 

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.

Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?

 

Two young boys must escape a life of slavery in modern-day Ivory Coast

Fifteen-year-old Amadou counts the things that matter. For two years what has mattered are the number of cacao pods he and his younger brother, Seydou, can chop down in a day. This number is very important. The higher the number the safer they are because the bosses won’t beat them. The higher the number the closer they are to paying off their debt and returning home to Baba and Auntie. Maybe. The problem is Amadou doesn’t know how much he and Seydou owe, and the bosses won’t tell him. The boys only wanted to make some money during the dry season to help their impoverished family. Instead they were tricked into forced labor on a plantation in the Ivory Coast; they spend day after day living on little food and harvesting beans in the hot sun—dangerous, backbreaking work. With no hope of escape, all they can do is try their best to stay alive—until Khadija comes into their lives.

She’s the first girl who’s ever come to camp, and she’s a wild thing. She fights bravely every day, attempting escape again and again, reminding Amadou what it means to be free. But finally, the bosses break her, and what happens next to the brother he has always tried to protect almost breaks Amadou. The old impulse to run is suddenly awakened. The three band together as family and try just once more to escape.

 

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

 

Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.

While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.

But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.

So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.

Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.

 

 

Writing to Distraction

“I set a goal for myself everyday when I write – 10 pages a day – and it’s much harder because I’m too dumb to turn off my Twitter and everything so it’s always on and it’s a real distraction. It’s a major distraction.” – R.L. Stine

 

 

100,000 words in manuscript form with a pair of Beats headphones on K.R. Conway’s desk on Cape Cod.

I’ll be honest: even at my age, even after nearly 20 years of writing, I can have a tough time focusing on my craft. As a journalist, I found my job a little easier — public interest stories were short (2000 words) and I could pretty much plot them out in under an hour. I interviewed the people, did the research, and simply sat down and pounded out the story, shipping it off to my editor with a happy “Adios!”

As a novelist, however, the task to stay focused is FAR more daunting – deadlines feel like walking the plank, fiction worlds and rules are my own so I can’t call someone for help, and the characters live solely in my mind. I rule their lives, their fate, and the road is always an unknown. It is easy to get discouraged; easy to want to give in. Distraction happens to every writer I know – it’s a mountain formed in our own hearts and minds and forged in passion laced with doubt. Distraction runs hand-in-hand with writer’s block, so avoiding the former helps curb the latter.

Without doubt, my most recent manuscript has proven to be the most difficult for me to write. I’ve found distractions have been plentiful. Finding a way to work as a writer that limits those distractions (and thus writer’s block) has been critical for me . . . and for a while, I did fail miserably at staying focused. A full week would go by and I’d only write 500 words (when I needed to be pushing 2000 a day at minimum). But then I refocused and used all the tricks I had learned over the years to get back on track.

The following tips have helped me (and other author friends) block distractions so I could focus on the task at hand and skirt the dreaded writer’s block. These tips help ANY writer, whether a student working on an essay or a novelist writing for the first time or the tenth.

 

MUSIC AS MUSE

K.R. Conway, S.G. Silva, Nate Davis, and Dean MacIsaac at Dunkin Donuts near the Bourne Bridge.

Without fail, music has always been a powerful tool that helps me focus when I write. Even as a journalist, I would blast music – everything from the Fugees and Metallica to the Doors and Madonna.

I learned, however, that I needed to always expand my musical “run-list” or the music would fail me – bore me – and I’d get distracted. My sixteen year old daughter solved my musical boredom issue by sharing her playlist with me across iTunes and Spotify. The result is an ever-changing list for me to listen to and select from. I do have Playlists on Spotify, but I’m adding to them almost daily thanks to my daughter, fans, and other authors.

The author and her daughter, who now share playlists.

Music also hones your focus, drowning out the world. Music makes you passionate about the words you write, whether for a novel or for an essay at school. Words and music are powerful and merging the two allows many writers to bring forward a richer story and a more intricate composition.

A friend of mine (and fellow writer), S.G. Silva, also advises that it’s equally important to have a playlist that includes classical or instrumental music for those times when dialog or research must be perfect. By not hearing lyrics in the music, S.G. is able to focus fully on more active, difficult scenes. Movie soundtracks are excellent for this type of “advanced” focus – Transformers, Avatar, Harry Potter, and The Avengers are all excellent choices.

As a writer, you must find your musical muse and share it with friends across music platforms so that you may always find new songs to drive your writing and your focus.

 

PEER PRESSURE

Writers (all of us) tend to make excuses when it comes to writing. The dog needs to be fed, the house needs to be cleaned, work is calling, etc. For me, the distractions at HOME were absolutely ruining my ability to write. I found that the same issue was happening to other writer friends of mine, thus we formed Writers Around The Block (WAT-B).

The idea was pretty simple: pick set times and places (mainly coffee houses) throughout the week where a writer could go and write alongside other writers.

Author Huntley Fitzpatrick raves about Jen Malone’s Wanderlost at Barnes and Noble.

Honestly, we didn’t talk much, but the physical act of opening a laptop and typing alongside someone else was a POWERFUL motivator. Those that came to our WAT-B meet-ups went from barely writing to pushing out a thousand words an hour.

We came with our headphones, our notes, and our raw determination. And when we did get stuck on a scene or an idea, we could signal the group for their input and it was immediately given. This instant feedback allowed us to stay away from the mother of all distractions: The Internet.

If you are a student, I suggest seeking out a space at your school where you could go at lunch and meet up with other writers and form your very own Writers Around the Block (or Quad). It works. WAT-B is proof it works, but participants must be committed to the act of writing.

 

DITCH THE NET

Teen writers with K.R. Conway

If you are trying to write, then Social Media is the devil, I swear.

Every author on every writer panel I’ve ever been on says the same thing – the Internet is a vicious, time-sucking monster. One of the reasons the Writers Around the Block group worked so well was because everyone turned off  their wifi connections when they sat down to write – that was part of the deal. No Net. Period.

S.G. Silva pounds out another scene at Starbucks.

Now, the Internet is also like caffeine and candy – it’s a bad, BAD addiction, even for those of us who are authors. In fact, we may be the most addicted of all because we use the Internet to help us story-build and craft worlds and characters. If you are a student, the Internet is a wealth of information at your fingertips – loads and loads of research and history, only a click away. And yes – it’s a necessary evil for anyone who is writing, BUT I have found that when I’m writing, I FORBID myself from going on the Internet. If you are researching something, set a time aside to do the research / Internet surfing that is SEPARATE from your writing time. Then print what you need and bring it with you when you write, but DON’T GO BACK ONLINE.

I know several authors who use software that actually locks them out of the Internet (gasp!) – it’s called Cold Turkey. Highly customizable, Cold Turkey can lock you out of ALL distractions by time limit or word count. I find that programs like Cold Turkey work best for me when I have it on my desktop in my office and have my Spotify playlist playing through my cell phone (NOT desktop). Why, you ask? Because Spotify on my phone is basic, whereas the desktop version is quite fancy and distractible.

For those who want an even more detailed writing experience and want to create folders for information , photos, notes, etc., I suggest checking out Scrivener. Almost EVERY author I know uses it (myself included).

 

KEEP MOVING

So, as crazy at it sounds, sitting still can wreck your focus. There is a rhythm to writing, which is why music is so critical to me. But I also have a tendency to move while I write and I notice that when I fidget, my word count soars. It can be super simple, like bouncing my foot to the beat of the music as I write, or as nuts as semi-dancing in my seat.

Authors Jen Brooks, Lori Goldstein, and Trisha Leaver signing stock at Barnes and Noble.

Science has proven that when the mind goes into Default Mode Network (basically auto-pilot), our daydreaming / creative side comes forward like a runaway train. Humans slip into DMN mode when we do something “boring” like walking to a friend’s house, folding clothes, and yes, even driving.

So basically that need to fidget DOES in fact free your mind to make connections in abstract ways – it allows you to see more possibilities in your essay and story than you ever saw before. I even tend to “write” most of my books in my head while daydreaming (often while driving or running), then I go to my computer and write down what I saw in my head.

You CAN buy some fancy items for your home writing area – desk bikes, treadmills, etc. – but I find that simply grabbing a $20 yoga ball and sitting on that at your desk works wonders. Blast your music, sway and bounce, and write until your fingers ache.

 

 

DEFEND YOUR CREATIVE SPACE

Mary Newton Lima and Kimberley Moran discuss the writer life at NECBWI.

When I was in college, I could NOT write at a desk. Instead, I wrote on my bed, cross-legged with all my pillows jammed up against the corner for my backrest. I knew other girls who could only work at a certain corner of the library and still others that liked to work in the common rooms.

Defending your creative space means finding the place in your world where YOU work best – not where others tell you to work. For my daughter, this is a combination of her bed for some classes, or her wide desk for other tasks. She says she works best at home, in her own room, and it’s true – she can get so much more done in her own creative space than at school. We even have a Privacy Pop tent, which my son loves (if you are college bound, it’s a must).

So find your spot and make it your own – shuffle your room (if you can) until you find a space that works for you and allows you to focus better. I even knew a kid that worked best UNDER her desk – pillows, blanket, and lamp all set up like a fort. DO what works FOR YOU. For me, when I’m home, I work at my U-shaped desk, but I am most productive when I’m actually at a coffee shop (Dunks and Starbucks are favorites, as well as Panera).

 

DON’T GET DISCOURAGED

Stuck? Just can’t think of the next line or how to connect the dots in an essay? Find inspiration elsewhere – move, take a walk, go for a run. When I was a journalist and found myself stuck on how to open an article, I’d use a quote that related to the story. You’ll find that the ability to write is in all of us – it just takes equal amounts of bravery, determination, and a fighting spirit to put pen to paper and bleed onto the page.

Never forget that words are powerful.

Words have raised armies and soothed agonies.

Words have toppled kingdoms and rallied the oppressed.

Each and every one of us have something to say and I dare you to find your own unique way to say it.

Make it loud, proud, and unforgettable, for all of us have a story to tell.

 

 

 

Derry Author Fest

I will be at the Derry Public Library in New Hampshire on Saturday May 6th, 2017 as part of the Derry Author Fest!  Come and find me! The link to the program is here: DERRY AUTHOR FEST.

 

Hall High School’s Epic Student Storytellers


Dear World:

This past week I was able to crash the party at Hall High School in West Hartford Connecticut for two days straight. If you are a parent reading this, and your child is suddenly writing until their fingers bleed and daydreaming on a whole new level, that’s probably my fault. Not only were THEY turned into 60-second storylines by ME, they also learned to see their world through their own mind’s eye with the simple use of twine. They also turned fiction into poetry and crafted outrageous characters from a single story idea. Below is that last class – Character Craft (plus photos from the other classes – huge thanks to Terri O’Donnell who took all the photos).

My goal, as always, is to make teenagers realize that they ALL have the raw talent to become twisted storytellers – they just need to fearlessly unleash their imaginations. And the kids at Hall High? Totally fearless, which was why they were so much fun to work with. Plus, they had a wicked good time writing their teachers into what were basically horror stories.

As per my promise to the kids at Hall, I am displaying their story playlist and stories. The songs they chose are also on SPOTIFY by clicking this link: CRAZY PLAYLIST BY TWISTED TEEN WRITERS. How the writing workshop worked was that I had written the beginning of a story, but it was open ended enough for the kids to be able to twist the story concept, plot lines, bad guys, good guys, motivations, character psychology, etc. into something totally different. And I dumped in many sneaky Easter Egg type “things” that could be used by the kids (I highlighted them in red in the story below). Once the kids had chosen their OWN twists, they picked an “anthem” for their story and character. These anthem songs became the playlist on Spotify.

 

Here is the story the Hall students had to work with  – they changed Jake’s name as they wished and THEY chose Mr. Devine for #2 . . . the poor history teacher.

My name is Jake and there are three things you should know about Hall High School:

#1 My English teacher, Mrs. Fransen, can’t drive. Like, at all. I mean, if parking between the lines was a life or death task, she would’ve been dead long ago. Unfortunately, she always parks next to me, which is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing part comes in a form of a tall iced Caramel Swirl from Dunkin Donuts, which she buys for me every morning (along with her own macho-atto, almond milk, iced whatever), because I volunteer to hike her 1-ton bags up to her classroom each morning. The curse part is the fact that I’ve already replaced my side view mirror TWICE this week, thanks to her grand parking skills, and this morning she nailed it again. I had to use my little sister’s duct tape – that pink crap with the golden crowns and I’m a Pretty Princess scrawled over every inch of it – to affix the mirror back into place on my Jeep. Basically, I had to sacrificed whatever scrap of dude dignity I had so a cop won’t pull me over for a busted mirror AGAIN. So, yeah, don’t park anywhere near Mrs. Fransen . . .

#2 Our history teacher, Mr. Devine, is cousins with Satan himself, I swear. I mean, he actually chuckles to himself while handing out homework that is more complicated than Ikea instructions IF they didn’t include the little cartoon drawings. And heaven help you if you ask a question, ‘cause Mr. Devine will sprout horns and a tail and scream that you weren’t listening in the first place. Sometimes, I think I should record his class on my iPhone and then play the audio backwards. Ten bucks says I’d find a creepy message hidden in his words – probably a recipe for meatloaf that is more Sweeney Todd’s daily special than the school cafeteria (which, I admit, has some really questionable meat).

#3 Gossip is evil, especially the gossip swirling around me right now, which is why I’ve been hiding out under the stage in the auditorium. And I don’t care what everybody says – I didn’t kill anyone. I don’t know how a finger ended up in Mrs. Piccioli’s purse, or how a toe was found in the girl’s bathroom. And the fact that the cops have been crawling all over the school since noon really doesn’t help the gossip, especially because they apparently found a bloody knife in my locker. So yeah, I’m staying here, under the stage with my iced Caramel Swirl, where it’s quiet and dark and no one will bother me . . . especially the dead guy, who I found stashed down here after last night’s show. I’m telling ya – stuff like this is EXACTLY why I hate theater class.

 

Below is what the students came up with after being given the story above.  Author names have been removed from the pages, with the exception of the quote at the top of the page. And just remember – this is FICTION – a chance for kids to let their minds roam without rules or restrictions, which is the ultimate freedom in writing (and why I removed their names).

Honestly, they all did a brilliant, BRILLIANT job, especially under the tight time crush of just ten minutes and being forced to work in teams.

Discussing how best to frame Mr. Devine.

These three had a brilliant concept regarding split personalities.

Deciding on twists and body counts . . .

Though we did not get to use the “Story Ball” (which was stashed in my backpack), we did use my Mind’s Eye twine. This crafting class is something I developed recently (in addition to the Story Ball). The teachers were dying to use it in their own classrooms after witnessing how it worked and how well the kids responded. Many, MANY kids wanted a turn at trying to do it. The girl in the checkered shirt (who is thinking) was “on deck.”

Story twist being explained to me – my mind is BLOWN.

Fans rule my world!!

Mind’s Eye Twine – deciding on how to mount a sword to a wall.

Fatal females plotting ruthlessly.

Watching the Mind’s Eye twine . . .

Another student (in purple) attempting the Mind’s Eye. This girl awed the class with her accuracy.

This time, Mrs. Fransen was being thrown under the bus.

Two of the ladies who made my visit possible – librarians Monica Ahern and Carolyn Shea. Photo taken by Terri O’Donnell. Somehow we are missing Cheryl Pervere, who started the whole thing when she stumbled on Undertow. HUGE thanks to them all!

Picking out furniture – a laundry basket, I believe.

Lunch with writers and fans. :)

 

Last Light – Updates (stop screaming)

Dear Reader,

Let’s face it . . . it’s been a year, almost exactly, since True North came out and you’re getting anxious. “Where’s Last Light?” you demand. “What has Conway been doing for a WHOLE year if she’s not strapped to her desk, inhaling caffeine?”

3767240Well, truth be told, 2016 was a bit of a writing bust for me.

I did get about half of the book written (70,000 words), but between two surgeries (mine and my daughter’s), selling a home, buying another house, moving 20 years worth of stuff (my husband had FIVE broken leaf blowers and seven cords of wood . . . um, WHAT THE HECK?), a jam-packed list of author events, PLUS driving a school bus full time and working on the book projects of other people, I fell behind.

Turns out you cannot squeeze more than 24 hours in a day, no matter how much you want to. Who knew?

As it stands, right now, my goal is to have Last Light come out in August (hopefully) and yes, it is the FINAL book in the series (in fact, the epilogue is already written). It is proving to be, hands down, the toughest novel I have ever written thanks to the THREE points of view, a ton of twists and new creatures, plus tying in all the breadcrumbs that I’ve sprinkled along the way (someone needs to take away my breadcrumb privileges next time, PLEASE).

My guess is that Last Light will push the 130 – 140k mark easily in terms of word count (that’s basically Tolkien territory, because I’m a maniac). The book will also, FINALLY, contain a glossary of creatures, characters, terminology, and geography, which will eventually be loaded here, on my website. In total, I have close to 30 characters and they all have intersecting plot lines and backstories that go back generations. Yes, I’m an idiot. No, I don’t regret it.

I’ll be honest: this book wants to kill me. Thankfully, whenever I call one of my pals, bawling because a character isn’t doing what I need him / her/ IT to do and I’ve backed myself into a corner, I’m reminded of why friends are so important: they beat the snot outta ya when you lose focus, and get you back on track.

Madly thankful for them all.

And MASSIVELY thankful for all my fans and their patience.

XOXOXO

KR Conway

want

Hello, Winter

Dear Blizzard,

Please note that I do not appreciate having my view obliterated by Jack Frost’s boogers. Please send the Heat Miser, ASAP.

Thank you,

KR Conway

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#IGAuthorLifeJan Day 28

#IGAuthorLifeJan Day 28

My book babies, thus far :)

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July 31, 2017 - August 4, 2017

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