Revising, Young Adult

Chop Chop: A Revision Tale

Last month, I posted about how I had finished my longest draft ever, ending up at 90,983 words. Quite honestly, I had no idea how I had written that much.

Even before I started reading through the manuscript, I was sure it was too long. So I went into my initial editing round with the mindset of reducing the word count. That’s never been a particular focus for me–more often I’m trying add!–but I still employed a number of the same editing strategies I usually do to ensure the manuscript was as streamlined as possible.

Some of my strategies included:

  1. Checking for scenes where information was repeated.
  2. Deleting weakening phrases such as “I know,” “I think,” “It seems,” etc. Most of the time these just aren’t necessary.
  3. Reviewing all of the beats. Were the characters shrugging, laughing, or smiling too much? Were two characters doing the same thing? Or even, were the only beats actions? Because it’s important to mix it up with other sorts of beats as well, like internal thought. And if it’s clear who’s speaking, you might not need a beat at all.
  4. Eliminating/replacing commonly used words. I didn’t actually do word searches this time to eliminate repeated words. I’ve gotten to a point where my crutch words jump out at me. Plus, I’ve been doing line edits on my 2021 novel, and all of my editor’s notes were fresh in my mind.

By the time I sent the manuscript off to my critique partners, I had it down to 87,453, so I had cut about 3,500 words on my own. Not too bad!

When the comments returned from my critique partners, it was clear I still had work to do. In varying degrees, they all said the manuscript felt long. Some had specific suggestions on what to cut, while others weren’t sure. It’s easy when a comment says “This chapter feels long” or “This chapter feels unnecessary” to make a decision about it. I started with those and then tackled all the other feedback I received. I thought I was done revising when I went back and read through all the comments again and realized I needed to actually rearrange a key plot point in the manuscript. Once I did that, it allowed me to cut even more. Ta da!

When I finished revising from my CPs’ comments, I was at 80,260, so down more than 10,000 words! All that was left was my final reader: my husband.

I had moved A LOT of things around in this draft after my critique partners read the manuscript, so I was mostly concerned with whether the book still made sense. Fortunately, he said it did! But he also still pointed out two scenes that he thought dragged on longer than they should. So… more cutting!

I trimmed the last two scenes and sent the manuscript off to my agent. The final count was 79,932 words. When all was said and done, I cut 11,051 words. Whew! But I know it’s a much stronger manuscript. And, of course, I’m by no means finished revising. There will be much more to come! But I’m up for it.

What are some of your tips for trimming manuscripts?

 

Reading, Review, Young Adult

IF THESE WINGS COULD FLY and A Few Other Books You Should Read

Last week was a little crazy for my kids so I gave them a week off of reviewing, but I do hope to have a series review from my sixth grader next Monday. However, he will officially finish sixth grade this Thursday, so now I’m wondering if that means I have to start calling him a seventh grader. What do you think?

In any case, I have several young adult books to share with you this week. It’s quite a mix of serious and lighthearted contemporary, along with a historical mystery. I hope you find something you’d like to read!


If These Wings Could Fly by Kyrie McCauleyDo you tend toward lighthearted or serious books? I definitely prefer to laugh and in general shy away from books I fear could bring on tears. The exception is when I know the author—and it turns out a lot of my writer friends like to tackle serious topics!

IF THESE WINGS COULD FLY by fellow #PitchWars17 mentee Kyrie McCauley is yet another example of why it’s so important to read books outside your normal comfort zone.

The book is set in small-town Pennsylvania, which is being invaded by tens of thousands of crows. They don’t bother seventeen-year-old Leighton, who already lives in a house that inexplicably repairs itself every time her father loses his temper and breaks things. She’s focused on finishing out her senior year and deciding whether going away to college is worth leaving her sisters. While her father’s rage and the crows both increase, Leighton allows herself to get close to her charming classmate Liam. (Note that Kyrie includes a content warning on her website that the book includes realistic depictions of domestic violence that may be disturbing for some readers.)

Yes, this book tackles the very serious topic of domestic violence. It addresses how both the characters experiencing it and those who know about it—or suspect—respond, which is a very important conversation to have. It’s something we should be thinking about and aware of. So, yes, it’s hard, but if it’s a topic you can handle, then it’s worth reading.

But IF THESE WINGS COULD FLY is much more than an issue book. There’s sisterhood with all of its complications, first love with its mix of confusion and exhilaration, and a girl finding her internal strength. PLUS, there are the crows, which I’m not even sure exactly how to describe. There’s a sense of magic to the crows and yet Leighton also finds scientific explanations for much of what they do. It’s fascinating. Both the crows and the house are rich metaphors throughout the book.

I’m so glad I read this book and will be continuing to think about it. I definitely recommend it, with the caveat about the content if that may be an issue. What a powerful read!

I’ve been making a more concerted effort this year to read books by debut authors, and THE SILENCE OF BONES by June Hur is one that caught my attention early on. Set in 1800 in Joseon (Korea), the story follows 16-year-old Seol, indentured to the police bureau as a damo. She must assist a well-respected young inspector investigating the murder of a noblewoman. She forms an unlikely friendship with the inspector, but when he becomes the chief suspect, she might be the only one who can discover the truth—a challenging prospect in a time and place where a young girl is expected to be silent and obedient.

I’m always intrigued by a good mystery, but this book had the added element of a setting I’d never experienced before. I’ve read a lot of historical, but never in this specific part of the world. It was both interesting and frustrating to read Seol’s experiences. In addition to the investigation, Seol had a separate goal—to find her brother, who had left home a decade before and never returned. The two stories kept weaving together in unexpected ways. And the investigation itself ended up twisting in a number of directions, exploring both personal and political relationships. At times the book was quite harsh to read, but it was also very well done. I really enjoyed how well everything all fit together and the final resolution.


Moment of Truth by Kasie WestI read MOMENT OF TRUTH by Kasie West in less than 24 hours. It’s no surprise, since I’m a huge Kasie West fan and basically love every book she writes.

It’s about 16-year-old Hadley Moore, whose whole life is dedicated to swimming. And the story starts off with an important meet being disrupted by a guy dressed up as a Hollywood action hero crashing it. This masked hero has made a habit of going around town performing crazy stunts, but it’s the first time he’s messed with her. So of course she makes it her mission to discover who he is.

I really enjoyed the mystery of the masked character—and the eventual solution (which I totally figured out way before Hadley did). But as with all of Kasie West’s books, what I enjoyed most was the friendship, family, and love story. Hadley had a lot of self-discovery to go through in this story, and it wasn’t an easy path for her to follow. I’m also a sucker for a jokester love interest, but that’s all I want to say about that since even the description doesn’t say much about the love interest 😉.

I think I am STILL behind on Kasie West’s books. But hey, it’s something to aspire to as a writer—that readers can’t keep up!


What I Like About You by Marisa KanterI’ve wanted to read WHAT I LIKE ABOUT YOU by Marisa Kanter ever since I read the description and sample in PitchWars in 2017. It’s so gratifying when a book delivers on the premise, and this one totally does. I read the whole thing in a single day, while my family was participating in an at-home camping trip. I definitely belonged inside with a book while they were cycling 15 miles in the rain and camping in the front yard!

The premise of WHAT I LIKE ABOUT YOU is that three years ago Halle Levitt created a pseudonym when she started her cupcake-themed book blog. None of her online friends—including best friend Nash—know her true identity. When she moves in with her grandpa for senior year, she meets Nash in real life but is too scared to tell him who she is, embroiling herself in a love triangle with herself.

I really enjoyed how Halle grew during the story, learning what it means to be a friend and also working through her grief (a major plot involves the fairly recent death of her grandmother). Also, the take on books was really interesting. I’d love to see one of these cupcake cover recreations!


THE PERFECT ESCAPE by Suzanne Park truly was the perfect escape from all the craziness in the world. It’s about Nate Kim, a Korean-American teen who works at a zombie-themed escape room, and Kate Anderson, an aspiring teen actress with an over-controlling dad. Together, they team up for a survivalist competition for a huge cash prize.

I’m always up for a zombie story—real or imagined—and this one delivered. But it also dealt with a number of real-life family issues for both characters. They come from very different worlds, and yet they share a love for zombies and campy jokes, and their survival skills are the perfect complement for each other. Their love story isn’t an easy one, but it feels real. I really appreciated the resolution for everyone involved.


I just realized that four of these are 2020 debut books and two are PitchWars 2017 classmates! I can’t afford to buy every book I’d like to, but I’m trying to support other authors however I can during these times. I hope you are too!

Blogging, Giveaways, Middle Grade, Young Adult

My 8th Blogiversary! With An Indie Bookstore Giveaway!

Tomorrow marks eight years of blogging for me, but I’m just going to celebrate today since I’ll be busy with weekend activities then. (Yes, I do know which day it is 🤣.) I wasn’t quite as active with the blog during the second half of 2019 due to a lot of life happenings, but since we’ve all been at home, I’ve started posting more again.

When I first started this blog, I was writing middle grade, and it was my main focus. I’ve since switched to young adult, so I don’t read as much middle grade anymore. However, my kids are now MG readers, and with us all home together, I’ve been including them in the review process. It’s great to still have a middle grade presence here on the blog through my actual middle grade readers! I post most of my YA reviews on Instagram these days and then compile them here as summaries. The content on this blog has evolved with my writing and commitments, but I think that’s the nature of things.

My book release is getting much closer! So in the coming year, you can expect a lot more information about my winter 2021 release, YOUR LIFE HAS BEEN DELAYED.

I enjoy commemorating this blogiversary every year and pulling together statistics. It’s fun looking back and seeing how visitors have interacted with the blog. Even if you don’t find it as interesting as I do, stick around to the end for this year’s giveaway!

On to my annual statistics.

Top 10 Posts Published in the Past Year

10. After the Book Deal: All the Doubts – I haven’t put very many writing updates on the blog in the past year, but I did include an honest post in October about the doubts I experienced when the book deal started to feel real.

9. MG Review: WINTERBORNE HOME FOR VENGEANCE AND VALOR by Ally Carter – While I just said that I don’t read a ton of middle grade anymore, there are some exceptions, and Ally Carter writing a middle grade is definitely an exception! St. Louis was the first stop on her tour for this book, so we got to see her before stay-at-home orders starting going into effect. Both my son and I loved the book.

8. YA Review: SCARS LIKE WINGS by Erin Stewart – My editor sent me an ARC of this book from BEA last year (let’s all be sad just a moment that it won’t be happening this year). I was a little hesitant to read SCARS LIKE WINGS because I tend to shy away from books I’m afraid could make me cry, but it was such a fantastic read.

7. MMGM Sixth Grader Review: MY LIFE AS A POTATO by Arianne Costner – Once stay-at-home orders began, I decided my sixth grader should take over middle grade reviews on my blog, and the next three entries on this list are proof people are reading his reviews!

6. MMGM Sixth Grader Review: THE CHANGELINGS by Christina Soontornvat

5. MMGM Sixth Grader Review: A WISH IN THE DARK by Christina Soontornvat

4. YA Interview & Giveaway: ACROSS A BROKEN SHORE by Amy Trueblood – Set in 1930s San Francisco, this sophomore book by one of my critique partners is a fantastic read about a young woman who longs to be a doctor but whose family expects her to become a nun.

3. Happy 7th Blogiversary to Me! With a mystery signed book giveaway! – Maybe people do like my statistics? Or probably just the giveaway 😉.

2. MMGM Interview & Giveaway: THE MULTIPLYING MYSTERIES OF MOUNT TEN by Krista Van Dolzer – Krista Van Dolzer is actually part of the reason I started this blog. She was one of the mentors for The Writers Voice contest in 2012, which required entrants to post their sample on a blog. So thanks, Krista! We have since become friends and critique partners, and I adore this book about math camp.

1. MMGM Interview & Giveaway: MIDSUMMER’S MAYHEM by Rajani LaRocca – This is another middle grade book I just had to read last year, combining Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with baking. It was one of my favorite reads in 2019, and if you haven’t read it yet, you should!

Top 10 Posts/Pages of All Time

When I first started this blog, I wrote a middle grade review every week, so it’s fitting that several of those posts have stood the test of time.

10. MMGM: THE UNWANTEDS: ISLAND OF SILENCE – The second book in a popular middle grade series.

9. MMGM: ONCE UPON THE END by James Riley – Here’s another MG author for whom I will always make an exception. His books are hilarious and awesome.

8. Subjectivity and Why You Should Get Multiple Opinions – I wrote this post in 2013, and it is continually in my top ten. It’s a great reminder that we all need feedback to make our work the best it can be!

7. Series Recommendation: DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth – A popular series. I’m still baffled by those movies 🤔.

6. MMGM: SAMMY KEYES AND THE HOTEL THIEF – This book is the first in an eighteen-book middle grade mystery series. I’ve read several of them but haven’t quite gotten through them all. They’re really great!

5. About – Seeing that people are visiting this page makes me really glad I just updated it 😀.

4. Before the Draft: Outlining in Scrivener – This post is listed on a Scrivener site somewhere and so continues to receive many visits. I do love my Scrivener!

3. A Glimpse at My Agent Spreadsheet: Middle Grade Books I’ve Read – The post that started my page listing middle grade and young adult books agents represent (see No. 2).

2. MG/YA Agents & Their Books – When I was researching agents, I found it helpful to know what books they represented. I still maintain this page for writers who may benefit from that same information. 

1. Remembering a Friend Lost Too Soon: Ashley Gammon – Four years ago this past January, my friend and former colleague Ashley passed away unexpectedly. I wrote this post as my own tribute to her, and I’m glad people continue to read about her here and honor her memory.

In previous years, I’ve included stats on searches as well, but WordPress doesn’t give as much information anymore, so it’s not very fun. Oh well.

Let’s move on to the giveaway! I’ve been supporting my local independent bookstore with regular orders over the past couple months, but I’d love to support others. So I will be giving away a $50 gift card to the independent bookstore of the winner’s choice. To enter, leave a comment below or click on the Rafflecopter link for additional entries. The giveaway will end at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, May 8.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

NOTE: This giveaway has ended.

Character, Instagram, Reading, Review, Young Adult

10 BLIND DATES and A Few Other YA Books You Should Read

I intended to have another MMGM this week–this time from my fourth grader–but some other school work took precedence, and my sixth grader didn’t have another one prepared to jump in. However, I’ve been catching up on my own reading and realized I’d piled up quite a few mini-reviews. So here are a few young adult books I really loved. If you’d like to see these reviews as I post them, you can follow me on Instagram at @michelleimason.


10 Blind Dates by Ashley ElstonI’ve been intending to read 10 BLIND DATES by Ashley Elston for months. I finally started it last week—and finished it within a day. The story’s about Sophie, who stays home from Christmas break to be with her boyfriend—only he breaks up with her. Her huge family decides to console her by setting her up on 10 blind dates (giving her Christmas Eve and Day off). I was already on board from this setup alone, but here are the five things I loved best about it.

1. The dates! From participating in a nativity to bowling in costume, these dates were hilarious and sometimes cringe-worthy. I loved how creative they were and couldn’t wait to see what the family members would come up with next.
2. The guys – I half-expected every guy picked out to be awful, but that wasn’t the case at all (I mean, some were). It was a really great representation of different types of guys.
3. The love interest – If you pick up this book, the description does not give anything away about who she ends up with, so I won’t here either, but the chemistry was fantastic.
4. Sophie’s family – So crazy but also wonderful. Also, I really loved the dynamic with her cousins and how she regained her closeness with them throughout the book.
5. Sophie’s sister – There was a more serious side plot going on with Sophie’s sister on bedrest, about to have a baby. I think sometimes writers are afraid to include a serious note in a romantic comedy, but it added a really great balance to the story. After all, that’s how life is.

So, that’s my take on 10 BLIND DATES, a thoroughly enjoyable and quick read. If you’ve read it too, let me know your thoughts!


Lovely War by Julie BerryI really enjoyed the unique storytelling of LOVELY WAR by Julie Berry. It’s a YA historical with a fantastical twist, told from the viewpoints of Aphrodite and other Greek gods. Interestingly, the gods are in the time of World War II, looking back on two love stories from World War I. Hazel, a shy pianist, meets James, an aspiring architect, right before he ships off for the front. Aubrey, a talented jazz musician and part of an all African-American regiment, meets YMCA volunteer Colette, who has lost her entire family and first love to German brutality. I loved the short chapters and back and forth between the gods debating the importance of love, war, and music versus the actual stories of these young people living through an unspeakable time.

Every one of these characters was compelling. I was drawn to their stories and hoping they would have happy endings, even while I expected the worst in a brutal war that took so many lives. I really appreciated how this story was told and highly recommend it.


I kept seeing this book all over Instagram, and the title alone was enough to make me want to read it. I’m a total sucker for clever titles. But then I read the description, and TWEET CUTE by Emma Lord is basically like YOU’VE GOT MAIL.

Pepper runs her family fast food chain’s Twitter account, and when the chain steals Jack’s family deli’s grilled cheese recipe, he engages in a Twitter war with her. Meanwhile, at school, they’ve never gotten along, but start getting to know each other and maybe even fall for each other. Add in an anonymous app they’re talking to each other on, which the reader is clued into.

I seriously couldn’t put this book down. I read it in a single day, despite currently drafting a book, starting eLearning with my kids, and everything else that goes with all of us being home. So that should tell you something about this book. It’s smart, fun, fast-paced, and a great escape from the anxiety and worry around us. Check it out!


I read the first book in this series, A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY, last year and loved it. I loved this one even more.

I found it interesting that with the exception of a couple of brief chapters, this book is written from two completely different points of view, leaving the reader wondering what’s happening with the two original characters. I wasn’t sure about it at first, but I was quickly drawn into the stories of Grey and Lia Mara. They are both incredibly well-developed characters facing really tough choices. But I also really appreciated the secondary characters. With a couple of them, I wasn’t sure whether I should be rooting for them too or not. I was turning pages quickly to find out!

But really, in general I was turning pages quickly to get to the end of this book. I was reading this at a time when I had very little reading time due to other commitments, and this book made me snatch time whenever I could to find out what would happen next. I was so worried the characters would make the wrong decisions—and that they might not have any other options. The stakes are so well done. I can’t wait for the finale. Well done, Brigid Kemmerer!
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Also, super excited this book is from my publisher, Bloomsbury 😍.


I love getting so sucked into a book that I read it long into the night, which is what happened to me with THE AFTERLIFE OF HOLLY CHASE by Cynthia Hand. There was one night I had 100 pages left at 11:15 and almost went for it. But I do have kids to wrangle in the mornings :).

I read this book right before Christmas, and it was a perfect read during that time. A Scrooge retelling, it follows Holly Chase, who was visited five years ago by the three Ghosts and didn’t mend her ways, so she died. Ever since, she’s been working for Project Scrooge as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past, and she stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on without her. She’s pretty miserable, until the latest Scrooge is unveiled as a seventeen-year-old boy with a story very similar to her own and she embarks on a quest to make sure he doesn’t make the same mistake she did.

I loved how Cynthia Hand approached this retelling of Charles Dickens’ classic tale, updating it for a modern audience. Holly was an interesting character to me because she wasn’t very likable for much of the book—but then, she was a Scrooge, so that makes sense. Her character arc is what makes this book great. One of the reasons I couldn’t put the book down was that I wasn’t sure how it would all end, but I finished it satisfied. Even though the holidays are now over, I still highly recommend this book. If you aren’t up for reading off-season, grab it and hold on until this December!

Character, Reading, Review, Young Adult

YA Series Review: The Agency by Y.S. Lee

So, I’ve had a little time to read lately…

But in all seriousness, one of my reading goals for this year was that if I read the first book in a series and liked it, I would go ahead and read the rest of the series instead of getting distracted by other books on my TBR in between. Anyway, the series I started a couple of weeks ago has been out quite a while (the first book came out in 2010), but I’m really glad I chose it off my library wish list. (There are currently 125 books on there, so it’s not surprising some of them are from 10 years ago.)

I know I usually post reviews on Mondays, but seriously, who knows what day it is anyway? 🤣

So, today’s review is for The Agency series by Y.S. Lee, set in Victorian London. It’s listed as YA historical, although it feels more adult after the first book, as she jumps ahead many months in each one. Granted, I often feel that way about YA historical, since teen characters at that time were essentially treated as adults anyway. But here are the covers, followed by the description of the first book to give you a taste.

A Spy in the House by Y.S. LeeThe Body at the Tower by Y.S. LeeThe Traitor in the Tunnel by Y.S. LeeRivals in the City by Y.S. Lee

 

Orphan Mary Quinn lives on the edge. Sentenced as a thief at the age of twelve, she’s rescued from the gallows by a woman posing as a prison warden. In her new home, Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls, Mary acquires a singular education, fine manners, and surprising opportunity. The school is a cover for the Agency – an elite, top-secret corps of female investigators with a reputation for results – and at seventeen, Mary’s about to join their ranks.

With London all but paralyzed by a noxious heat wave, Mary must work fast in the guise of lady’s companion to infiltrate a rich merchant’s home with hopes of tracing his missing cargo ships. But the Thorold household is full of dangerous secrets, and people are not what they seem – least of all Mary.

Here are the five things I liked most:

1. The premise – I’m always a sucker for spy novels, and I also really love books set in Victorian London, so it was a double whammy for me. It was interesting that Mary’s situation added the intrigue of having been condemned to death for stealing.

2. The romance – Ms. Lee does an excellent job stretching this romance out over four books. The characters are 17 and 19 in the first book, and I kind of lost track by the end of the last book, but I think about two years had passed. James Easton is the perfect foil for Mary.

3. Mary’s character growth – While this description doesn’t give a hint of some of the issues Mary has to deal with, I don’t think it’s spoiling things too much to say that Mary is half-Chinese but has passed as fully English with few questions. A significant part of her character arc throughout the four books is accepting who she is.

4. The historical details – I love it when I read a historical novel and feel like I’m truly living in that time. From the mundane to the huge (construction of Big Ben), these books were so well-researched. I’ve read a lot of books set in Victorian England, and I learned new things :).

5. The mysteries – I really enjoyed the mysteries in each book and how they wrapped up. Truly fun reads!

What have you been reading lately?

Instagram, Writing, Young Adult, Your Life Has Been Delayed

Author Life Month on Instagram

Hi, friends!

Sorry I’ve been absent here on the blog. My best friend’s been in the hospital since early December, and I’ve been spending a lot of time with her. If you would like to read her story, her family is sharing it on this GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/f/chrissy-stricker.

But I did want to check in here as well since all of January passed without me posting anything at all. This February, I’m participating in #AuthorLifeMonth on Instagram, which is a great way to meet other authors and learn their stories. I’m going to include my first week of posts here, but I hope you’ll come check me out there as well!

Day 1: Me!

This is the shot I’m planning to use as my author photo, which I sort of snuck out there as my profile photo a while ago. My husband took it, and I just really love it. Looks like future days will have me talk more about what I write, but in general it’s YA with a twist of something more.


Day 2: My books!

My debut novel, YOUR LIFE HAS BEEN DELAYED, is forthcoming from @bloomsburypublishing in winter 2021, and I couldn’t be more excited! It’s about 17-year-old Jenny Waters, who gets on a plane in 1995 in New York and lands in St. Louis in 2020. Everyone on the plane has stayed the same age, but everyone on the ground has aged 25 years. I love this book so much and can’t wait to share it with all of you!


Day 3: Writing Fuel!

Basically… caffeine. When I was younger and didn’t care about calories, I drank multiple cans of soda a day. I now limit myself to one can per day, which makes me sad because I really love my soda. However, I also love tea—especially Pure Leaf—and coffee. A couple of years ago my husband bought me a Keurig, and I didn’t think I’d be that into it, but it’s so perfect for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up. Pictured are a few of my favorite flavors 😀.


Day 4: My Biggest Fan

In all honesty? My kids! But since I don’t post photos of them here (although my 9yo would love it if I would!) and my book isn’t out in the world yet to accrue reader fans, I’ll go with the fourth graders I presented to last week. They made me the nicest “compli-mats” full of notes about how they’re excited to read my book when it comes out. I mean, they’re just a tad below my target age, but they’ll be awfully close by the time the book hits shelves 😉.


Day 5: A Shelfie.

I really love my bookshelves. When we moved into this house, the basement had basically been party central. Like, the walls looked like an Applebees. Our painter said he’d never had to fill so many holes 🤣. And man, did it stink. So we had to overhaul it, and as part of that, we had these beautiful bookshelves built. I very quickly filled them up, and I’ve been trying to weed out some of my old books to allow room for my continuing book-buying habits. There’s still a little space…


Day 6: Inspiration.

I sort of hate the question, “What inspired you to write this book?” YOUR LIFE HAS BEEN DELAYED is the seventh book I’ve written, and most of the time I can pinpoint what triggered the idea, but in this case, I don’t remember. I just know that one day I had this question:

  • What if a girl got on a plane and landed many years later?

And when it comes down to it, “What if…” is what really inspires anything I write. Sometimes it’s a movie I watch and I think, “That’s cool, but what if…” Or maybe I’m walking around at an event and see an interaction and think “What if…” I’ve written numerous stories based on questions that start right there. Some of my favorites have been:

  • What if twins were separated at birth by alien abduction?
  • What if a magical violin pulled you into the story of the music you were playing?
  • What if a girl is the star of the biggest reality show on the planet—and she doesn’t know?
  • What if a girl discovered her babysitter dead right after she texted her a death threat?

I am never short of “What if” questions.


Day 7: Swag/Stationary

As a pre-published author, I don’t have any swag yet, and I’ve never invested in fancy stationary. However, thanks to my kids’ schools requiring us to buy new notebooks every year that never get filled up, I have an endless supply of half to three-quarter empty spiral notebooks. So I use those for my to-do lists, writing notes to people, brainstorming, and anything else I want to keep note of at my desk.

When I do have swag, bookmarks are high on my list as many author friends have told me they’re the most beneficial. I’m not sure what else. I’d love ideas! If you’re a reader, what swag do you most love getting? If you’re a writer, what swag have you had the best feedback on?


Come see my entries for the rest of the month at https://www.instagram.com/michelleimason/!

Middle Grade, PitchWars, Reading, Review, Young Adult

My Favorite Reads of 2019

My reading was back up this year. I finished 101 books, with a good mix of young adult, middle grade, and adult. I’ll include the breakdown at the bottom of the post. But on to the fun part–my ten favorite reads of 2019! They’re listed in alphabetical order by author.

In Some Other Life by Jessica BrodyIN SOME OTHER LIFE by Jessica Brody – This book is from a couple of years ago, but I just got to it in 2019. I love books that consider the question of what your life would be like if you’d made a different choice. This particular story follows Kennedy as she discovers what her life would have been like if she’d gone to a prestigious private school instead of staying at the public school. That decision has ramifications for many people in her life, and I loved seeing it play out.


Finale by Stephanie GarberFINALE by Stephanie Garber – The first book in this series, CARAVAL, was one of my favorite reads of 2017, and the finale (😉) makes it on the list for 2019. I was fortunate enough to meet Stephanie Garber when she came through town, and since I was the last person in the signing line, I started reading. The book kept me completely gripped and up late reading, not completely sure how it would all turn out. It’s the best kind of anticipation.


Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay KristoffILLUMINAE by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – I don’t know why I hadn’t read this book before. It’s one of those that I’d seen everyone talk about and I just hadn’t gotten to. Now that I have, I totally get why it’s so popular. I read this book in less than 24 hours. I loved the unique dossier format. I loved the characters. I loved how the stakes just kept getting higher and twisting in new directions. I haven’t had a chance to get to the other two books in the series yet due to general life craziness, but they are very high on my list for 2020!!


Midsummer's Mayhem by Rajani LaRoccaMIDSUMMER’S MAYHEM by Rajani LaRocca – 2019 has been an exciting year for my fellow 2017 PitchWars mentees. It’s been fun to watch books that were in the contest out in the world. With its premise of baking meets A Midsummer Night’s Dream, MIDSUMMER’S MAYHEM was one of the PitchWars books I was most looking forward to, and Rajani totally delivered. I loved how well the plot of the Shakespeare play was incorporated into the modern world and seamlessly explained for a middle grade audience. And the baking throughout the story just made my mouth water. I can’t wait for Rajani’s next book!


Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara RutherfordCROWN OF CORAL AND PEARL by Mara Rutherford – I’d been anxious to read this book since I first read the description. Nor and her identical twin sister, Zadie, live on the floating village of Varenia. Every generation, the most beautiful girl is chosen to go marry the crown prince of Ilara and move to land. Zadie is chosen, but when she’s injured, Nor goes in her place. I do love a good twin story! This book was completely engrossing from the first page, and the stakes kept changing and getting higher. I really loved how it was almost like two stories—the first half a story of sisters and the second full of intrigue on land with danger and romance. Nor is a strong female character I was rooting for throughout the story, and while the love story was great too, it didn’t take over from her main goal, which is protecting her home. I can’t wait to see what happens in the sequel!


Scars Like Wings by Erin StewartSCARS LIKE WINGS by Erin Stewart – So I’m that reader who will generally shy away from a book if I think it will make me cry, and I was afraid that would be the case with SCARS LIKE WINGS, but it surprised me in the best possible way. It’s about burn survivor Ava, who lost her parents and was severely burned in a house fire. Now she’s going back to school. The very first line set the tone for the book: “One year after the fire, my doctor removes my mask and tells me to get a life.” I could tell from that opening that there would be more than just sorrow in the story, and I’m so glad I read this book. It’s hard at times, but even so it’s one I’d read again.


Across a Broken Shore by Amy TruebloodACROSS A BROKEN SHORE by Amy Trueblood – With her second book, Amy once again delivers a well-researched historical novel with a strong young female character who stands up for herself believably within her time. The story follows Willa, whose family expects her to be a nun, but who feels called to a career in medicine. It’s set against the backdrop of the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1936. I love how well Amy portrays Willa’s family and her struggle to meet family obligations while also staying true to herself. Amy is a wonderful friend to the writing community and to me personally. If you haven’t already read this book, add it for 2020!


The Multiplying Mysteries of Mount Ten by Krista Van DolzerTHE MULTIPLYING MYSTERIES OF MOUNT TEN by Krista Van Dolzer – I love how Krista captures the middle grade voice so well, and this book was extra-fun thanks to being set in the unique location of a math camp. I was privileged to read an early copy, and she let me work out the logic problem included ahead of time. Yes, I was a total math geek in school and you might have even found me on the math team in junior high :). But definitely check out this book. I mean, if nothing else, the cover should sell you on it.


Fame, Fate and the First Kiss by Kasie WestFAME, FATE, AND THE FIRST KISS by Kasie West – Somehow I didn’t have a Kasie West book on my list of favorites last year after her being on my list for several years in a row, but this year she’s back on there with FAME, FATE, AND THE FIRST KISS. I loved that the frame of the book was the character making a campy zombie movie based on a book series. As usual, the dialogue and romance were top-notch, as well as the supporting cast of family and friends. I know I’m behind on one of Kasie West’s 2019 releases, so maybe that one will end up on my 2020 list.


White Rose by Kip WilsonWHITE ROSE by Kip Wilson – Kip is my longtime critique partner and I’ve already shouted about this book quite a bit this year, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that it makes my list of favorite reads. From the moment Kip first told me about WHITE ROSE when we were sitting in a hotel room at NESCBWI in 2016, I was immediately gripped. The story of Sophie Scholl, a young German college student who challenged the Nazi regime during World War II as part of The White Rose, a non-violent resistance group, it’s compelling, heartbreaking, and moving. It’s beautifully told in verse, and as a result it ends up being a pretty quick read, yet you’ll want to go back and read it more slowly to absorb it all over again. Others evidently agree, as it’s been named a School Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2019.


So those are my ten favorite reads this year. Of the 101 books I read, here is the breakout:

Young adult: 63

Middle grade: 10

Adult: 25

Non-fiction: 3

The high number of adult books is due to me continuing to weed out books from my shelves. Found quite a few this year I won’t be keeping to make room for more YA :).

Do we have any of the same favorites this year? Let me know in the comments!