Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Guest Post by Jadie Jones: The Three E’s of Romance and Relationships in YA

Today I'm pleased to welcome author Jadies Jones, in support of her blog tour for The Moonlit Trilogy. As an avid YA reader and aspiring YA novelist myself, I knew her post on romance and relationships in young adult literature would be a great read--and she didn't disappoint. Read Jadie's post below and see how you can win your own copy of the first book in the trilogy!

The Three E's of Romance of and Relationships in YA
By Jadie Jones

As we all know, romance and relationships can get really, really messy. This mess becomes even more tangled when you add a third party in the mix, and in the case of young adult fictional relationships, the third party is the reader. Our emotions respond to these characters as we begin to invest and trust in them. We have expectations for how the relationship will unfold, and how fast. And our environment shapes what we deem acceptable for these two fictional love birds as their romance progresses.

Do writers owe readers a protected, empowering, literary-romance experience? I don’t think so. But I do think we writers owe readers reality, and that we have a responsibility to make our characters truly, utterly responsible for the choices they make, even when it’s not pretty.

Emotions: While it’s a controversial subject, I cast my vote in the belief of infatuation at first sight, especially for teen characters. As adults, we can look at these doe-eyed situations and roll our been-there-seen-that eyes all we want, but I well remember walking into third period graphics arts on the first day of my freshman year in college, and spotting a blond haired, ice-blue eyed boy with a dimple in each cheek and a grin that lit up the room. I remember nothing else about that day.

Teen characters are experiencing these emotions for the first time, and, on the cusp of adulthood, coming to a budding understanding that the actions we take and the relationships we make have the potential to affect our lives forward for a very long time. I know that from that day forward for the rest of the semester, my heart sped up on the walk from the cafeteria to graphic arts. And I remember the one time he stopped by my desk to compliment me on a project (I have no idea what I’d made.)

I also remember the gnawing stress of guilt when, in my senior year, my religion and my first serious relationship were at a crossroads. I remember feeling suffocated by either option. The relationship didn’t survive the weight, and it took me a long time to be able to sift through the debris with any real perspective. As these fictional characters come to similar moments on their romantic journeys, it is imperative a writer explores the internal consequences, both positive and negative, of choices made.

Expectations: The “expectation” factor applies particularly to the timing in a YA relationship. Our protagonist experiences an initial flutter of emotion in the presence of the will-be-love-interest. In our minds, we have an expectation as to what comes next, and how quickly. How long before a first kiss? Do we expect the love to make our protagonist more or less impulsive? Do we expect them to never make mistakes? To never hurt each other? Do we expect a literary romance to run a perfect course? And what the heck is “perfect,” anyway?

The idea of “perfect” is different for all of us. A good friend of mine expected guys she dated to coordinate their outfits for nights on the town. That’s about as far from my perfect as you can get. Another friend of mine expected her boyfriend to propose on Christmas in front of her entire family. That sounds absolutely horrifying to me. We bring these experiences with us into the first page of a new book, which shapes what we expect from the characters therein. The author is bringing his/her own experiences and expectations to the same dynamic, turning the triangle into a square.

Environment: External pressures and reactions also have a big impact on relationships both fictional and in real life. How do the people closest to you or the main character feel about the relationship itself and/or the decisions the protagonist makes because of the relationship? I saw a great video about how the six people you spend the most time with will begin to impact what you deem acceptable, and I believe this to be absolutely true. So who does the protagonist hang out with, and how does this environment respond with the introduction of the love interest? What advice do his/her besties offer? How does the advice make the character feel? How does the protagonist’s home life/relationship with parents/etc. affect the boundaries or lack thereof in regards to the romance?

Outside stress can also fast-track the timing of a relationship. Suddenly each moment seems more critical, something you have to grab out of the air before it flies away. This mirrors itself in real life. Take my grandparents, for example, who met in the throes of World War 2. Days after they met, they were engaged. They married months later. My Nana would’ve had it sooner. She and my grandfather went to the local court house and tried to convince the judge she was 18, but the judge wasn’t having any of it. He deployed soon after they married, and I imagine each moment they had together, in person and through letters, was like a fire consuming everything in its path, burning the oxygen from the air. And typically, a protagonists and/or his/her world is experiencing some kind of new external stress in some way, or there wouldn’t be much of a story.

Throughout my life, books have been where I go when I don’t want to feel alone. I find solace in characters who have had similar thoughts/experiences/conflicts/yearnings. So now, as a writer, I want to give readers characters who will sit down with them and hold their hand and be quiet and be still, so that for just a moment, that reader knows someone else out there gets it; someone else out there went through it and made it to the other side. And I do believe we owe our readers a realistic look at the entire journey.

About the Author:
Jadie Jones wrote her first book in seventh grade, filling one hundred and four pages of a black and white Mead notebook. Back then she lived for two things: horses and R.L. Stine books. Fast forward nearly twenty years, and she still work with horses. It’s amazing how much changes... and how much stays the same.

The dream of publishing a novel has hitchhiked with Jadie down every other path she‘s taken (and there have been many). Waitress, farm manager, road manager, bank teller, speech writer, retail, and more. But that need to bring pen to paper refused to quiet. Finally, in 2009, she sat down, pulled out a brand new notebook, and once again let the pictures in my head become words on paper.

Confession time: Jadie Jones is a pen name created to honor two fantastic women who didn't get the chance to live out their professional dreams. First, Jadie’s grandmother - a mother of four during post World War II America, who wanted to be a journalist so bad that even now when she talks about it, her blue eyes mist and she lifts her chin in silent speculation. And second, a dear friend's mother who left this world entirely too soon. To Judy Dawn and Shirley Jones, Jadie Jones is for you. It's been a pleasure getting to know her.

Jadie Jones Online:

Moonlit is the story of eighteen-year-old Tanzy Hightower knows horses, has grown up with them on Wildwood Farm. She also knows not to venture beyond the trees that line the pasture. Things happen out there that can't be explained. Or undone. Worse, no one but she and the horses can see what lurks in the shadows of the woods. When a moonlit ride turns into a terrifying chase, Tanzy is left to question everything, from the freak accident that killed her father to the very blood in her veins. Broken and confused, she turns to Lucas, a scarred, beautiful stranger, and to Vanessa, a charming new friend who has everything Tanzy doesn't. But why do they seem to know more about her than she knows herself?

Book One: Moonlit
Paperback: 310 pages
Publisher: WiDo Publishing (April 16, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1937178331
ISBN-13: 978-1937178338

Tanzy's journey continues in Windswept, the second installment of the Moonlit Trilogy when Tanzy is the key in an ancient prophecy pivotal to the existence of all beings, both Seen and Unseen. Unseen who have waited a millennium for her birth are relentless in their efforts to see the prophecy fulfilled--whether for good or evil, depending on which side of the conflict one stands. Others have sworn an oath to end Tanzy's existence, permanently. Already, Tanzy's body has been compromised by her enemies, her veins now home to the blood of a wild horse whose instincts are becoming impossible to control. While Tanzy's Unseen enemies work to draw her out of a remote safe house, her friends beg her to stay in hiding. Tanzy is torn, wanting to reunite with Lucas, who has loved her since her first incarnation, yet unsure whether fulfilling the ancient prophecy will protect those she loves or destroy them.

Book Two: Windswept
Paperback: 289 pages
Publisher: WiDo Publishing (July 8, 2014)
ISBN-10: 1937178536
ISBN-13: 978-1937178536

In Wildwood, the third book of the Moonlit Trilogy, Tanzy's journey races toward a final battle within the Unseen. Tanzy Hightower has crossed the veil and entered the Unseen world to fulfill the destiny she has at last embraced, to either seal or destroy the veil between the Seen and Unseen worlds. She is the only mortal in a land teeming with creatures who want her dead. To stay alive long enough to stop Asher, the most powerful of the Unseen, Tanzy accepts his marriage proposal and seeks refuge inside his palace. On the Seen side of the veil, Tanzy's allies are fragmented and lost, without leadership. They must gather forces and train an army of candidates to defend their world against unfathomable predators poised to strike should the veil holding them at bay dissolve. While Tanzy has accepted her own inevitable death in fulfilling her destiny, her closest friends refuse to stop searching for the impossible: a way to save Tanzy's life.

Book Three: Wildwood
Paperback: 312 pages
Publisher: WiDo Publishing (September 22, 2015)
ISBN-10: 1937178706
ISBN-13: 978-1937178703

Win your own copy of the book that started it all, Moonlit! Enter the Rafflecopter form below. Good luck, and thanks for stopping by!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Book Review: Just Like the Movies by Kelly Fiore

Some Kind of Wonderful. Sixteen Candles. Say Anything. When Harry Met Sally. Never Been Kissed. I’ve always been a huge fan of quirky romance movies, even if the character dynamics do usually find me screaming at my television set.

To Keith in Some Kind of Wonderful: “You idiot! How can you not see your female best friend has the major hots for you, especially after you ‘practiced’ kissing her in the auto body shop!”

To Ronald “Ronnie" Miller in Can’t Buy Me Love: "Stop getting distracted by all the popular girls falling all over you—the only girl you’ve ever really liked now likes you back and you can’t give her the time of day?”

That end scene at the Olympics in the movie Cutting Edge, where Doug tells Kate he’s in love with her right before they go on the ice, after they've been fighting the entire movie? Completely swoon worthy.

Speaking of swooning, when I first read the premise of Kelly Fiore’s YA romance, Just Like the Movies, I knew it was definitely one to add to my wish list. It did not disappoint—thanks to a rainy weekend, I was able to finish it in one day!

Pretty, popular Marijke Monti and over-achieving nerd-girl Lily Spencer have little in common--except that neither feels successful when it comes to love. Marijke can’t get her boyfriend to say “I love you” and Lily can’t get a boyfriend at all. When the girls end up at a late night showing of Titanic, sniffling along with the sinking ship, they realize that their love lives could--and should--be better. Which sparks an idea: Why can’t life be like a movie? Why can't they create perfect romantic situations? Now they have a budding friendship and a plan--to act out grand gestures and get the guys of their dreams. It seems like fun at first, but reality turns out to be much more complicated, and they didn't take into account that finding true love usually requires finding yourself first.

Tommy’s parents are standing ten feet away from me. I swallow. They don’t look mad, exactly. But they don’t look happy either. How am I supposed to explain this to them? At least, how can I explain it in a way that doesn’t sound completely insane? I consider my options.
I want your son to love me, so I’m acting out movie scenes.
Say Anything is just the beginning. There are a dozen others I’m willing to try.
Haven’t you ever wished you could fall in love like they do on-screen?
I set down the speakers. This is something Lily and I didn’t plan for. It’s ten at night and I’m standing in front of my boyfriend’s parents. If this were a movie, the director would call “Cut!” But this is real life, not a movie set, and there isn’t a script to follow.

The chapters alternate between narrators--Marijke (pronounced MA-RAY-KUH) and Lily. Sometimes this type of format can get repetitive, but Fiore did a good job of weaving the two stories together. I found both characters refreshing, and completely relatable. Most teenage girls are guilty at some point of letting their lives revolve around a boyfriend, and this is the position Marijke finds herself in. Lily just wants her crush, Joe, to notice she’s alive. Because a lot of the movies in this book are more from when I was a teenager (I’m in my late 30s), I have a feeling younger readers will be inspired to have a movie marathon once they finish this book. Just Like the Movies would also make a great mother/daughter read—there’s nothing in the book that a 12-year-old girl or older couldn’t read. Both Tommy (Marijke’s boyfriend) and Joe are adorable and I have a feeling younger readers will fall in love with them, too. I went back and forth with being frustrated with Tommy but then he would redeem himself time and again. The concept of Just Like the Movies is fresh and fast-paced, and will leave you with plenty of ideas to add some spark in your own relationship, if you dare!

Note: Kelly Fiore is the author of Taste Test, which I also recently finished. It's another fun, fresh contemporary YA that takes place on the set of a reality cooking show for teens. I'll post a review of it soon!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Guest Post by Nina Schuyler: A Writing Life and Motherhood

Please join me in welcoming author Nina Schuyler, author of The Translator, here today as part of her blog tour through WOW! Women on Writing.

Note from Renee: How timely this guest post is, as I lately I've been chauffeuring the kids (ages 9 and 12) around much more than I've been writing! I started out writing as a way to make extra money while staying home with my children, but over time it required me to get quite creative in terms of pitching articles, interviewing sources on the phone during nap times, going on assignment while they attended preschool, etc. Nina Schuyler has some great tips for keeping our writing souls refreshed. Enjoy!


A writing mother. It sounds like an oxymoron. Like jumbo shrimp. Or airline food.

Mothering requires an attention turned outward, to your children, who, especially when they are small, need help with just about everything. While writing requires an attention turned inward, to listen to the characters and the emerging story.

I reject that it’s an either/or proposition—mothering versus writing; children versus art. It’s not impossible for the two aspects of yourself to find a certain coexistence, even if, at times, it’s a tension-filled existence. I have two sons, and from the very early days, I’ve found a way to write. Not because I had a deadline or anyone was expecting anything from me, but because writing has always been a source of delight. I figured I’d be a better mother, a better wife, a better person, if I made time for that source of delight.

I’ve found that mothering has increased the complexity of my work, intensified my commitment to both writing and mothering. With children, the world matters even more. What will they inherit? Will there be this bird with a splash of hot red on its face? Or this bright eggshell blue frog? Through my four-year-old’s eyes, the world is new, fresh, astonishing. The mundane is made extraordinary. He makes me see anew.

Here are some things that might help you manage this oxymoronic state:

1. Stop Before You Are Done: I still use this technique because it allows me to easily move from making breakfast and packing lunches to writing. So even though I know how the scene might end, I leave it for the next day. Ernest Hemingway offered this advice to a young writer: “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next.”

2. Fiddling with Words: Another way I move from the world of mothering—from dinner and baths and bedtime stories—is to print out the half-finished scene and read it over at night, when the house is quiet. Invariably I cross out a word, find a better one, or come up with more specific details, or a more interesting way to describe a gesture, an object. I the morning, my scribbled page is my entrance back into the story.

3. Keep a Notebook Nearby: I always have a notebook near me. Nothing fancy, I use a sketchbook, so I’m not forking out lots of money each month. Though I might not be physically at my desk writing, some part of me is mulling over the story. Sometimes a thought comes to me—or a line of dialogue, a description, a sense of my character—and the notebook is ready to receive. It’s interesting, too, when you are deep at work on a story, the world seems to hand you little gifts that fit perfectly into the story. They come via the radio, a snippet of conversation at the drug store or preschool. Those fragments make it into my notebook, and, the next day, into the story.

4. A Baking Timer: In the early days, when my son woke every three hours, I was, of course, exhausted. Yet I still wanted to experience some writing delight. When he’d nap, I’d go to my desk, set the timer for ten minutes and write. Not judging, censoring, editing, just write. When the timer rang, I’d get up, walk around. Then, if I could, I’d set it again. I needed the timer to keep myself sitting there, doing the work, otherwise the exhaustion would have won every time.

5. Writers Group:
I run a bi-weekly writer’s group. All of the members are mothers who write. I come with writing prompts and for two hours, we write together. We know what it takes to get to this gathering—kids dressed, fed, teeth brushed—and the things that await us after the meeting ends—doctors’ appointments, soccer, swimming, ballet lessons. But here, in this quiet space, we’ve carved out a time to commune with story and words and the imagination and each other.

6. Be Kind to Yourself: Goals are good. Goals are great, but don’t set them so high that they cause frustration or, worse, inhibit you. I remember roiling with envy when one young man, single, childless, said he wrote 35,000 in five days. But, I reminded myself, I’ve made choices and those choices have led to a peopled life—children, whom I love, a husband, whom I love. So my goal is simply to write something every day. The fragments, the 100 to 200 words, do add up. It’s how I wrote The Translator, and it’s how I’m writing my next novel.

7. An Inspirational Quote: I’ve taped this quote from Carl Jung on my wall: “Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parents.”

About Nina:

Nina Schuyler's first novel, The Painting, (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2004), was a finalist for
the Northern California Book Awards. It was also selected by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the Best Books of 2004, and dubbed a “fearless debut” by MSNBC and a “great debut” by the Rocky Mountain News. It’s been translated into Chinese, Portuguese, and Serbian.

Her short story, “The Bob Society,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poems, short stories and essays have appeared in ZYZZYVA, Santa Clara Review, Fugue, The Meadowland Review, The Battered Suitcase, and other literary journals. She reviews fiction for The Rumpus and The Children’s Book Review. She’s fiction editor at Able Muse.

She attended Stanford University for her undergraduate degree, earned a law degree at Hastings College of the Law and an MFA in fiction with an emphasis on poetry at San Francisco State University. She currently teaches creative writing at the University of San Francisco.

Find out more about the author by visiting her online:
Twitter: @Nina_Schuyler

About The Translator:

When renowned translator Hanne Schubert falls down a flight of stairs, she suffers an unusual condition― the loss of her native language. Speaking only Japanese, a language she learned later in life, she leaves for Japan. There, to Hanne’s shock, the Japanese novelist whose work she recently translated confronts her publicly for sabotaging his work.

Reeling, Hanne seeks out the inspiration for the author’s novel ― a tortured, chimerical actor, once a master in the art of Noh Theater. Through their passionate, volatile relationship, Hanne is forced to reexamine how she has lived her life, including her estranged relationship with her daughter. In elegant prose, Nina Schuyler offers a deeply moving and mesmerizing story about language, love, and the transcendence of family.