Monday, December 1, 2014

Drop Everything and Read This: French Kissed by Chanel Cleeton

One of our absolute favorite New Adult series this year was the International School books by Chanel Cleeton. Seriously, we love these books. The setting, romance, and characters are so compelling. We're especially excited to see Fleur in her own story.

Therefore, we're thrilled to celebrate the release of the final book of the series, FRENCH KISSED, today.

FRENCH KISSED (International School Book #3)

On the surface, Fleur Marceaux has it all. If only the facade matched reality. With one year left at the International School in London, Fleur’s struggling to graduate, her love life is a mess, and she can’t stop thinking about Max, her ex-boyfriend’s best friend. But all that pales compared to the blackmailer determined to destroy her. 

There’s a social hierarchy at the International School and Max Tucker is outside the velvet ropes. After watching Fleur break his friend’s heart, Max knows to stay away from trouble, despite the crush he’s had on her since freshman year. But when they’re partnered on a project, Max learns there’s more to Fleur than meets the eye, and she just might be worth the wild ride. 

The more time they spend together, the further Max falls. And when a kiss awakens a passion Fleur never imagined, she’s unable to resist Max, who she had thought was all wrong for her but might be the only thing that’s right. But will he stand by her when her secrets are revealed?

 About the Author

Originally a Florida girl, CHANEL CLEETON moved to London where she received a bachelor’s degree from Richmond, The American International University in London and a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Chanel fell in love with London and planned to stay there forever, until fate intervened on a Caribbean cruise and a fighter pilot with smooth dance moves swept her off her feet. Now, a happily ever after later, Chanel is living her next adventure in Asia.

Law school made Chanel realize she’d rather spend her days writing sexy stories than in a courtroom, and she hasn’t looked back since. An avid reader and hopeless romantic, she’s happiest curled up with a book. She has a weakness for handbags, her three pups, and her fighter pilot husband. 

She is the author of I SEE LONDON and LONDON FALLING, published by Harlequin HQN, the upcoming FRENCH KISSED, and FLIRTING WITH SCANDAL, the first book in a new three-book series to be released by Penguin/Berkley in 2015. 



Barnes & Noble:

I SEE LONDON (International School Book #1)
Barnes & Noble:

LONDON FALLING (International School Book #2):
Barnes & Noble:

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Liebster Award Blog Hop

One of the absolute best things about writing contests is meeting new writer friends, especially when they are as talented and witty as Wade Albert White and make use of those extra vowels in words like “favourite.”

So when Wade was looking to tag someone for the Liebster Award blog hop, I volunteered as tribute. Normally, I would drag Carrie into this madness, too, but she’s in the process of moving into a sweet garden apartment, so she has the day off—provided she hosts me for a garden tea party sometime soon.

So, here it goes.

Wade Albert White: Is the book you landed an agent with the first book you ever wrote?

Me: Oh, heck no. Carrie and I had written a YA Paranormal Romance that could best be described as "Gilmore Girls" meets House of the Seven Gables. We may revisit it at some point, but for now it’s very comfortable napping on a high shelf.

Wade: Favourite type of pie (you must answer this even if you don’t like pie)?

Me: (Gasps). Who doesn’t like pie? I make three pies from scratch for Thanksgiving and other kinds throughout the year including my infamous cookie pie, which involves making a brownie base and putting cookie dough over it, then underbaking the whole amazing thing so it’s still gooey when you serve it. You’re welcome. 

Wade: Was there any aspect of querying agents that turned out differently than what you anticipated? If so, what is it?

Me: I have to say that I really enjoy writing queries, as crazy as it sounds. I even like helping other people with theirs. I would say the biggest surprise was just how nice 98 percent of all agents were during the process. It makes sense that we would get along. Agents love books. I love books. But before the querying process I was a little intimidated. Now I know agents are people, just like us, but with literary super powers.

Wade: Name one book or author that has had a significant impact on your own writing and why.

Me: I’m a huge fan of Dickens and of J.K. Rowling. They are both excellent plotters who write amazing characters. Even their tiny characters are really vibrant. Think of Stan Shunpike who drives the Knight bus, for example. Both authors also know when to mix a little humor into some rather bleak material. Orphans are generally not laugh riots, but no one told Charles or J.K. that.

Wade: Where do you do most of your writing?

Me: On the couch in my pajamas next to my muse--my black kitten, Poe (seen above). I primarily write after my daughter goes to bed and until my eyes get blurry or I need to watch something on BBC, whichever happens first.
Wade: The genre(s) you tend to read the most versus the genre(s) you tend to read the least.

Me: I’m more interested in the story than the genre. Is there a sexy Moroi vampire or an alien who goes around the world insulting people? How about a bumbling bounty hunter from New Jersey? I’ll read pretty much anything I can get with my greedy little library card or Nook.

Wade: Best piece of general advice you’ve received from a critique partner?

Me: Try to make the chapters about the same length. It helps the pacing. That way none of the chapters drag.

Wade: Do you prefer to read the book first or see the movie first? And with or without popcorn?

Me: Most of the time, I want to read the book first so I can complain and be disappointed about all the tiny scenes and characters that got cut. Kidding. Kind of. I’m more of a Junior Mints girl than a popcorn person.

Wade: What is your favourite part of the writing process (first draft, editing, revising, submitting, etc.)?

Me: I love writing first drafts. The possibilities are endless. Right now I’m working on something that started out as a light contemporary romp but quickly turned into a darker thriller. I love when the characters knock me over the head like that and  force me listen to the story they want to tell. Characters can be so bossy.

Wade: The one bit of advice you wished you had discovered before you started querying.

Me: Write the query before you even start the manuscript. It will probably change, but it’s a really good idea to get a sense of the hook, the conflict, the characters, and the stakes before you delve in to the story. It can help nail down the voice, too.

And here are my questions for Lara Rectenwald, Kristin Wright, Faydra Stratton, and Sarah Glenn Marsh, who will in turn tag some of their friends.

1.      How do you motivate yourself to keep writing? Do you focus on word count goals or pages
2.      What’s your spirit animal?

3.      Is there any genre or type of book you’d love to write but are too intimidated to do so?

4.      What’s the best piece of constructive criticism you’ve received?

5.      What author or book speaks to you the most and why?

6.      What’s your writing goal for 2015?

7.      What’s your bad habit in terms of writing?

8.      What advice would you give a writer just starting to query?

9.      Who is your book boyfriend or girlfriend and why?

10. What’s your best cure for writer’s block?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Drop Everything and Read This: AMITY by Micol Ostow

Every year around Halloween, I try to pick up a scary book, which, of course, I’ll only read during the day to avoid nightmares…

Most times I turn to Edgar Allen Poe or The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, but this year I bought AMITY by Micol Ostow. Let’s just say I may have to borrow my toddler’s night light for a while. 

Now, it's no surprise that I'm a big fan of Micol's work. Carrie and I took a writing class with her, which was just excellent. But, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this is my favorite of all her books. If you liked the poetry and creepiness of FAMILY,  which is also based on a true crime, you'll love this one. 

AMITY tells the story of two different families living in the same creepy house, as the title of the book would suggest. 

The book follows two brother/sister pairings. Connor and Jules Webb and ten years later, Luke and Gwen Hall.  All four siblings are deeply troubled, in different ways, by the evil lurking in the “bones” of the house. Connor’s anti-social behavior worsens when he arrives and becomes trapped with his abusive father. His twin, Jules seems powerless to help him. Gwen, who we find out was institutionalized for hysterical outbursts senses something rotten about the house and how her brother is drawn to it, but is afraid to speak out for fear of being sent back for more psychiatric treatment. As in most YA novels, the parents are willfully ignorant of the danger.  Only the teens are willing to face Amity’s past and what lies ahead.

Like any good horror book, the true fear comes from the ramifications on the characters’ psychological health rather than blood and gore, although there is enough specific details to terrify wimps like me.  As Amity seeps into their dreams, their delusions, and their waking lives, the book started to remind me of Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher, where the house becomes an analogy of the minds and body of the characters.  
The house itself becomes a character in the most vivid way. You can almost feel it breathing and watching you with its eye-like windows, which also reminded me of Poe’s master work. 

Prepare to be freaked out, but also incredibly taken by the rich language and the excellent plotting. The book is very tightly wound, creating a claustrophobic feeling, an inevitable racing to the inevitable conclusion, which, despite the fact that you know most of what will happen, still feels fresh and surprising.

I highly recommend it to anyone in need of a scary but elegantly written read.

Monday, October 20, 2014

On Co-writing

When people hear that we are co-writers, the first question that they ask is “how does that work?”
The short answer is: beautifully. It’s like having a hive mind. Imagine always knowing where you left your keys, or whether you need to buy milk.

But we assume you want to know more about our process.

Some people assume we each write a chapter then send them back and forth. While we have done that in the past, and it may work for some people, that’s not what works best for us.

When we come up with an idea for a story, we get out some wine and brainstorm together. We come up with the kernel of the idea, the conflict, the characters, and the journey. We’ll work on an outline together chapter by chapter.

Then, Betsy starts by tackling the empty page. She fast drafts and sends things to Carrie in bulk. Carrie works on stepping back and plotting beat by beat using color post it notes and other high-tech methods. 

When Betsy is done with a messy first draft, Carrie takes over and moves things around, streamlines, adds scenes, takes scenes away and asks those hard questions about characterization, motivation, and which plot bunnies have eaten all our vegetables.

Then we go back and forth a bunch more times and rinse and repeat. By the end of the process we don’t know who wrote which word or sentence. It’s all one voice, as it should be.

 By now you are probably asking, “what if you disagree or what if you don’t like something the other one has written?” The answer is that it happens very infrequently, but when it does, we talk it out and usually come to an even better solution.

So, what are the benefits of working together? Well, it’s fun first and foremost. Writing can be a solitary endeavor, but for us it’s like a slumber party, only with lots of commas and plot whispering.

Secondly, we can get twice as much done. While one person is working on a draft of project A, the other one is working on something else. 

It’s also like having a running partner. If you know someone is counting on you, you’re more likely to tie those sneakers on and hit the trail and suck it up. You also have a built in cheerleader who can talk you off a ledge if you get a rejection or are waiting for a response.

Also, have you ever reached the point when you want to throw up your hands and have someone else finish a scene or a chapter? When that happens to us, we just hand over the draft to our co-writer and turn on old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

We do not own the rights to this adorable Muppet image