Two New Year’s Releases I Adore

Two amazing things are happening on January 1st that I cannot WAIT to share with you guys. First, Justin Levinson is releasing an EP that’s crazy good. His previous album (with The Valcours) was in constant rotation while I was writing and revising my last book so you know it’s good good good. Justin is definitely a wordsmith worth checking out.

Secondly, A.G. Howard’s debut, SPLINTERED, is hitting shelves everywhere. I swear my heart is growing wings and flapping against my ribcage because it’s THAT excited about this novel.

Justin and Anita are so darn awesome both creatively (and personally) that I wanted to do a little review of each of their projects. That way when you’re looking at those holiday gift cards wondering what you should get, these items are already at the top of your list. If this is how the year is going to start, 2013 is going to be AMAZING. Just you wait.

Justin Levinson Take My Time EP CoverArtist: Justin Levinson

EP: Take My Time

Genre: Folk / Folk Rock

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

There are few things I love more than reading and writing. One of those things is baseball, the other is music. I especially have a soft spot in my heart for folk/folk rock, and Vermont based singer/songwriter Justin Levinson’s latest EP, Take My Time is an exceptionally delicious snack to sink your teeth into.

The three song EP consists of ‘Take My Time,’ ‘Give It One More Try,’ and ‘Bid The Rest Goodbye.’ The overall feeling is moody and atmospheric in the very best of ways. It’s full of lyrics with richly imagined themes of coping with life after love and picking up the pieces of a shattered heart and coming out stronger in the end. Exhibit A:

“Cos’ I will just take my time, go round and round on this ferris wheel ride with my stomach in knots like a mime in a box, I keep singing alone through the gloom.”

Justin writes in a universal language that allows listeners to really connect with the songs because at one point in time, we’ve all had our hearts broken. We’ve all dealt with the aftermath of a love gone wrong, we’ve all been confused about whether or not a relationship can be saved, and most importantly, we’ve all found the inner strength to move on and try again.

“It takes everything within, not to go back to where I’ve been. It’s takes everything within cause I get so lonesome, forget what’s right and the facts they get distorted and I think to myself we could give it one more try.”

The song that best shows this graduation from heartbreak to finding your way through the darkness is the title track, ‘Take My Time’. The lyrics are evocative of someone who is determined to make their dreams come true. Whether it’s love, career, or a personal journey, the person in the song is willing to push themselves — even if they’re afraid. That’s something everyone can aspire towards…being brave even when we don’t feel so sure anymore. It’s a pretty great message.

“I keep myself steady though I fear what’s ahead. I’m set in the moment it’s the best way to live.” 

The composition of these songs is SO good my meager words won’t do them justice. There are violins and acoustic guitars and MORE wonderful backing instruments, and Justin’s vocals are the perfect lighthouse to guide you through the storm. If you’re looking for music that’s got smart lyrics, infectious melodies, and atmosphere for days, this EP is so for you. I know I’m going to be listening to it over and over again.

Check out this video of ‘I Was So Wrong’ off his last album, This Side of Me, This Side of You for a hint of what Justin Levinson offers:

I Was So Wrong Official Music Video – Justin Levinson & The Valcours

Here’s where you can keep up with Justin Levinson online: 

Website: JustinLevinson.com

Twitter: @jxlevinson

Facebook: Justin Levinson Music

9781419704284_p0_v1_s260x420Author: A.G. Howard

Book: SPLINTERED

Genre: YA Fantasy

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads Book Blurb:

This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

Praise for Splintered:

“Attention to costume and setting render this a visually rich read…”–Kirkus Reviews

“SPLINTERED is simply a delicious, disturbing, mad, wonderful read. I can’t recommend it highly enough.” –Melissa Marr, New York Times Bestselling author of the Wicked Lovely series.

I will *try* to contain myself and not openly gush like the inner fangirl inside of me is dying to do. A.G. Howard is very dear to my little heart for multiple reasons. (One of them being she was in the query trenches with me when we were both looking for literary representation.)

Over the summer I had the privilege of reading SPLINTERED and even if I didn’t know Ms. Howard, I’d be obsessed with this book. It’s unlike any retelling I’ve read because it’s not really a retelling as much as a re-imagining. Howard has completely transformed the Alice In Wonderland story you remember into something much much much darker. If you think you’re getting anywhere CLOSE to the Wonderland you knew, oh my oh my oh my, you are WRONG. So very, very wrong. This book comes alive with new characters. I ADORED the setting, fast-paced plot, and Howard’s beautiful writing style. SPLINTERED has got voice for miles, with unexpected plot twists and turns that will keep you turning pages, and a slew of crazy/mad/wonderful characters that you’ll immediately fall in love with.

This unique take on the sinister side of Wonderland is delightful and I can’t encourage you enough to run to the bookstore on January 1st and buy a copy. TRUST me, you won’t regret it. It’s got action, adventure, mystery, fantasy, and two swoon-worthy guys that you’ll have a tough time choosing between. I don’t want to say too much and spoil it, so I’ll leave you with a taste of A.G. Howard’s sweet prose to whet your appetite.

Reading the opening is all you need to get sucked down the rabbit hole:

“I’ve been collecting bugs since I was ten; it’s the only way I can stop their whispers. Sticking a pin through the gut of an insect shuts it up pretty quick.

Some of my victims line the walls in shadow boxes, while others get sorted into mason jars and placed on a bookshelf for later use. Crickets, beetles, spiders…bees and butterflies…” Oh, you want to read more? Oopsie. You’re going to have to grab a copy on January 1st!

Keep up with A.G. Howard online by visiting the following places:

Website: Author A.G. Howard

Twitter: @aghowardwrites

Blog: A Still and Quiet Madness

Facebook: Author AG Howard

Goodreads: A.G. Howard

11 Unique Bookshelves for People Who Heart Books

If you love books, then you have to check these unique bookshelves out. I want them ALLLLLL. Hope you’re having a great day! ❤ ❤

Happy Friday the 13th!

IDEA TIME: I think we should all watch horror movies tonight. My vote’s on the original FRIDAY THE 13th. I mean, come on, it’s even got Kevin Bacon. And he gets the axe.

What’s your favorite scary movie?

Photo credit: pinterest.com

5 1/2 Things I Am MOST Grateful for This Year.

Since 2011 is winding down and 2012 is almost upon us – I thought I’d share the five and a half things I am MOST grateful for this year. So here we go!

1.) I am grateful for the writing community. Writers are a special group of people; Maybe even the best. (I might be biased, though.:)) They pick you up when you feel buried in rejection. They force you to do ALL THE THINGS you think you can’t do. They endlessly cheer you on – it’s kind of like having that REALLY REALLY GOOD friend who holds/held your hair back while you are/were praising the porcelain bowl. I digress. Really, I don’t know how I’d manage the publishing journey without all of you, my wonderful writing friends. You are the sun that my world revolves around and I heart you so, so much.

2.) Manuscript Critters and beta readers. HOLY CHIPOTLE GUACAMOLE. You guys. NO SERIOUSLY YOU GUYSSS. You know who you are, and I’m so grateful to have had your magical/awesome/sparkly eyes on my work. My book would be NOWHERE near as awesome without you. AND SERIOUSLY I MAY NEVER EVER KNOW WHERE ALL THOSE PESKY COMMAS GO BECAUSE I HAVE A TENDENCY TO RAMBLE IN REAL LIFE, TOO. Thank you for making me be the best writer I can be. I’m totally giving you a semi-awkward squeezing-the-life-out-of-you GINORMOUS hug right now. No really, I am.

3.) My social networking crew. Including my blog friends, my tweet hearts, and everyone that reads my music column. I am so awed by how amazing you all are, thank you so much for sharing almost every single day with me on the interwebz. You bring laughter, warm sunshine and fluttery butterflies into my soul. I’M SO SERIOUS. I heart you all so much more than you will ever know. Thank you for all the silly banter, book recommendations, #WW’s, #FF’s, the INFAMOUS PANTY MEME, random musings on life and creativity, and of course the fabulous #GOATPOSSE. You enrich my world. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

4.) My parents, my sister, and my friends. What can I say? You guys are the fairest of them all. You support me when I shut myself off from the rest of the world. You allow me to go MONTHS without coffee talk, or normal people stuff like doing laundry, getting dressed in real people clothes, and EVERYTHING ELSE I neglect while I’m balls deep in a project. You allow me to chase after my dreams, and are there for me no matter what. How blessed am I to be surrounded by such amazing people all the time? (Or, realistically, when I’m out of my reclusive hermit shell.) Thank you for giving me the freedom to spread my wings and fly. You never cage me, and one day I can only hope to repay all of you for your unwavering love. I love you all so very much.

5.) I am also grateful for: Dark chocolate covered marzipan squares. I know, I know..RANDOM. BUT BUT BUT this little lactard can’t indulge in milk chocolate treats, and I just found this place that delivers the best BEST BEST chocolate covered marzipan in ze whole entire UNIVERSE and therefore, it makes the list of things I’m super grateful for. Also, i’m grateful for run-on sentences apparently. BUT OMG THE CHOCOLATE IS SO GOOD I CAN’T HELP BUT SAY SO MANY THINGS WITHOUT PUNCTUATION BECAUSE CHOCOLATE AND WRITING GO SO HAPPY FACED TOGETHER, THEY REALLY REALLY DO. O.O

5 1/2.) To everyone who has asked where they can purchase or review my book this year, your faith in my ability to create a world you’d want to spend an entire day in is humbling. I can’t even express to you how incredible you make me feel. YOU KEEP ME GOING – I am so beyond grateful for you. Hopefully 2012 will bring some publishing news that I can share. Until then, I’m CRAZY lucky that you are here to fill my heart with so many amazinggggg feelings. I am giving you a bone crushing bear hug, which is more pleasant than it sounds. Pinky swear. 😉

Happy holidays to you and your family and everyone you love. I hope the coming year brings you everything your heart desires and more. <333333

(Yes, the comments on this post are closed. We can totally hug each other later in the week.)

Countdown: 99 days until THE HUNGER GAMES hits theaters

I’m REALLY looking forward to the movie. I can’t wait to see how the screenwriters and actors and director and everyone else involved are going to bring this story to life. AND OMG THAT MEANS MY BIRTHDAY IS IN 97 DAYSSSSS. AND 2012 is almost here and and and…breathe.

Here’s the official trailer. What do you think? YAY or NAY? And more importantly, TEAM GALE OR TEAM PEETA???!!

All credit belongs to VISOTRAILERS youtube channel.

OMG – A Book-Mas Tree!!!

I posted this on twitter a couple of days ago, but HAD to share it with you! I heart this book tree SO MUCH. Enjoy the photo, my fellow bibliophiles <333333

**I’m not sure where the pic originated from, since it’s been floating around the interwebs – but all credit belongs to the individual who  created it.

Wishing you a very inspiring day! <33333

 

5 things you can be proud of RIGHT NOW

As writers we spend a lot of time inside of our heads. A LOT. I’d say we also spend a GREAT deal of time focused on the future. OMGGG when will I sign with an agent? When if ever please please please will I find an editor who wants to buy my book? What if no one thinks my manuscript is pretty? What if I get a kajillionmillionbillion sad faced reviews on Amazon/Goodreads/Barnes and Noble/and GAHHHHHHHH.

BREATHE.

No really, take a nice deep breath. Don’t focus on that stuff, focus on the here and now. Need a little help? Okay, here are some things you can be proud of RIGHT NOW:

1.) I’ve said this before a KAJILLION times, but it’s SO worth repeating. YOU WROTE A BOOK. OMGGGG. Do you have any idea how many people say they’re going to write a book one day, and NEVER ever ever ever ever do? You came up with a plot, a story arc, YOU KNOW WHAT A MACGUFFIN IS, you have amazingggg characters, and HOLY FREAKING MOLE you rewrote until your eyes bled 26 letters all over the page thousands of times. Be proud. No matter where you are in the publishing process, don’t ever forget that you wrote a book. You sat down late at night when everyone else was asleep. Maybe you wrote at the crack of dawn, when even the birds were too tired to get up. You sacrifice any and EVERY extra second in your day for this one dream. You’re my hero, so BE PROUD of yourself.

2.) You got a form rejection. How is THAT something to be proud of?!! Simple. You didn’t just talk about making your dreams happen, you went out there and you DID something about it. YOU WERE SO BRAVE FACED I WANT TO INTERWEBS HUG YOU SO BAD. You learned how to write a query letter. You researched agents, you boiled your plot down into 250-350 words INCLUDING your bio – holy crap you are a rock star. A form rejection, while it isn’t pleasant, means YOU ARE DOING SOMETHING. HUZZAH!!! You are wearing something that walks, talks, and looks a WHOLE lot like perseverance right now. So be proud.

3.) You got a partial or a full request. First of all YAYAYAYAYAYAYYYY high five! That feels AWESOME, doesn’t it? I mean, a real live literary agent saw something in YOUR query letter and was all, “OMGGG SEND ME THIS RIGHT THIS SECOND AS AN ATTACHED WORD DOCUMENT PREFERABLY. I HOPE TO GET BACK TO YOU IN 60-90 DAYS THANK YOU FOR THINKING OF ME…” SQUEE! Now do me a favor. Remember this feeling. Take it and squeeze the juice out of it and put it in a bottle to savor when you’re feeling down. Stop focusing on what happens next. The best thing I can tell you is this; you now have a 50-50 shot. It’s either going to be yes, or no. So breathe. SO MANY THINGS go on behind the scenes for why an agent may or may not take your project on. Be proud of how far you’ve come, and don’t forget that squishy feeling in the pit of your stomach and the triple beat of your heart slapping against your ribcage when you open that email and see a request. Allow yourself to feel proud, you accomplished something. You are so awesome.

4.) You have read every last book in your genre, your mother’s genre, your mother’s mother’s great Aunt Sissy’s genre and — holy crap that’s A LOT of reading. Why is this on the list? Reading is essential for writing. YOU are doing research, whether you think you are or not. How else will you know where your book fits into the market? Eat books for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Sprinkle stories on your ice-cream at night. Read read read read read as MUCH AS YOU CAN. Then write. Reading work that has been published helps get your brain into butt-kicking sharpness. PLUS, isn’t part of the reason you’re in this whole publishing game BECAUSE you heart books so much? So be proud of how much you read, no matter where it sits in the bookstore. If you like YA…YAY!!! Mysteries, thrillers, science fiction WHATTTT. (Sorry, I loves me some science fiction.) Ahem. Be proud of yourself for taking the time to read. YOU are working on your craft and that is DEFINITELY something to be proud of.

5.) You never give up. A rejection dings its nasty little head in your inbox, but you don’t even bat an eye. You take out your handy-dandy list of well researched agents and you carefully send out a personalized query in the rejections place. You don’t view rejection as a toxic dart being shot into your heart. You view it as it was intended; It’s nothing personal – you just weren’t a good fit with that agent for whatever reason. You are a professional, you are always kind and courteous – you bravely soldier on. YOU ARE SO ADORABLE AND AWESOME AND OMG KEEP GOING GOING GOING GOING. Because you are SO CLOSE, I can feel it. NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER GIVE UP. One day I’ll be reading your book, falling in love with your characters, and DYING for your next work to come out. Thank you in advance for all that you do. I am so very proud of you.

HAPPY MONDAY!!!