What Beta Readers Are Saying: “The Truth About Two Shoes”

I was a bit hesitant to post this, but people keep asking.

When I let the first two people read THE TRUTH ABOUT TWO SHOES, I was terrified. For the first time in a while, I was emotionally invested in what I had written in a way I had never connected before. While I was confident I had a decent story and plot with strong characters, I had mixed in things on faith with a light dusting of language that a PG13 rating of a movie wouldn’t bat an eye at.

It was different for me, and thus…I. Was. Petrified.

To my surprise, after the first two readers finished (surprisingly on the same day) it was met with overwhelming positive feedback. I couldn’t believe it. So I started sending it to a few people here and there, including some Internet strangers from my author critique groups. I even won a 5-page critique in a contest and there were literally only two comments in the margins of my document. One was about something grammatical and the other was a big highlighted section that was like, “OMG I LOVE THIS CHARACTER INTERACTION.”

So finally, I started getting confidence in this new book of mine (and technically my fourth full novel). And when more and more texts started flooding my phone from people reading my book (yes…some people actually gave me the play-by-play of their emotions while reading), I was moved, humbled and seriously on the verge of a bazillion weepy tears because it touched me that people would not only take the time to read my book, but legit let me know what they were thinking the whole way through.

I’ve been writing my whole life. I’ve won awards on the national level, I’ve been published in magazines and on the front page of newspapers, and have had short plays performed across the country– but never before in my life have I been so moved by my readers. Their feedback (including constructive suggestions to make it better) has really meant the world to me.

People have been asking me more and more about my book lately, and asking what others are saying. Occasionally on Instagram, I’ve  been posting things I’ve received via text, but I started getting too many to post! So, I gathered a collection of the comments that don’t give away spoilers (or cropped them so you can’t figure out the spoiler) and decided to post it here. Some of these are from the same people, though for privacy sake, I won’t let you know which ones go to who.

But thank you to my readers for your feedback and love. Even the people who have told me your thoughts in person and aren’t represented here, your words have been a huge help in getting this manuscript where it needs to be and a huge encouragement.  You have no idea how much I appreciate it.

It’s still not ready, but it’s getting there. I’m plugging away at changes and getting it ready for querying and maybe even Pitch Wars next month. Thanks to you guys, I think I may actually put it out there to the real world. Here’s hoping someone nibbles.

(Please Note: The “FG” character people refer to is my mean girl, Francis Grace. )

W.I.P. Blog Hop

I was recently tagged in a blog hop by the lovely E.G. Moore who I met through the ‘In With the New’ (#NewAgent) Twitter contest, so I figured I should jump in on the fun too and discuss the book I’ve been slaving over recently, THE TRUTH ABOUT TWO SHOES.

What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or historical?

 Ellie McSatterfield is a fictional 16-year-old girl who is the daughter of an associate pastor of the only mega church in the area and, well, she’s pregnant.

When and where is the story set?

This is a young adult contemporary so it takes place NOW (yes, this very second) and in Southern nowheresville, Mississippi.

What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

THE TRUTH ABOUT TWO SHOES is a story layered with secrets, so it’s hard for me to divulge much without giving it all away.

But long story short, Ellie is pregnant at sixteen, her father is ashamed, her boyfriend dumped her the second he found out, and her former Christian group of friends has ostracized her because they don’t want to associate with someone like that. It makes for a pretty crappy junior year of high school; however, the only people who will hang out with her is a group of rough-around-the-edges kids including a skinhead named Freeble, a gorgeous hot head with great hair, and a slacker chick who is hellbent on plotting revenge against the guy who screwed up Ellie’s life. They may not be much, but they are her’s… whether she likes them or not.

What is the personal goal of the character?

Ellie wants to keep the truth surrounding her pregnancy a secret at all costs, which gets tricky when her well-meaning, almost-friend Leslie tries everything in her power to figure it out.  But also, it’s surviving this pregnancy while maintaing her integrity and holding onto her faith– despite the fact that people are trying to take that away from her too.

 Is there a working title?

It’s called THE TRUTH ABOUT TWO SHOES because “Two Shoes” is the nickname her new friends gave her since she was a goodie-two-shoes before the “goodie” was gone.

Where can we see more?

Unfortunately, no where. I don’t even have this set up for First Reader sign ups yet because I’m a bit sensitive about this particular manuscript. My heart has been poured into and I’ve been a little wary about what some wills ay. People who have personally asked to read or trusted author friends from critique groups have read it. I’m about to do my second revision so hopefully I’ll ship more out soon. But surprisingly and thankfully, I have been receiving great feedback so far. Here’s hoping that maybe someday soon, y’all will actually get to read it in ACTUAL book form.

The next victims?

I’m tagging the following author pals:

Emily Herring Dunn - trusted friend and CP who has a killer book that’s getting some love from her queries recently. She’s also working on two other cool projects I can’t wait for her to finish.

S.A. Jeffery –  LOVE the Alice in Wonderland retelling this one is working on. Seriously epic.

Katelyn Stark – Yes, my lovely editor has a book she’s been working on and it’s beyond delightful.

The Truth About Two Shoes: Novel Theme Song

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve recently discovered the song for my current work-in-progress, The Truth About Two Shoes (which I mentioned briefly here) and I just had to share.

When I write a story, at some point a song will speak to me that really captures everything I feel while I’m writing the story and the characters. Usually, the song is more of an anthem for the main character. It’s ironic to some degree considering I actually am a terrible music listener and don’t listen to anything beside instrumental music while I write.

But occasionally whether it’s through a friend, social media, or the old fashioned radio, I run into the song that captures my book. I joked today with an author friend of mine about how when I’m working on a new book and really trying to immerse myself into it, falling into the “theme song” stage is like being a 12-year-old girl trying to make the perfect mix tape for the guy she likes– only in this case, the crush is my manuscript and I only hope it loves me back just as much as I love it.

For Two Shoes, there have been many songs that have spoken to me in this way– especially two in particular. “Already Falling” by the adorably talented 14-year-old Anna Graceman and “Hope in Front of Me.”

What surprises me most is that the latter song is actually a Christian song, though it actually isn’t overtly Christian in that it name drops God/Jesus every five seconds like many songs do these days. What really strikes about this though is how my book, while it is about a Christian girl and has the Christian message woven within it, the book is not necessarily a “Christian book,” which I guess makes it even that much more of a perfect fit.

I’m sure there will be some confusion regarding why I’d say this isn’t a Christian book, but by that I mean you wouldn’t be able to find it on the shelves of a Christian bookstore and very most likely, some Christians won’t like it. I very purposefully wrote it so it could fit within a mainstream audience. I’ve described it as a combination of the TV show “Freaks and Geeks” and the movie “SAVED!” If you didn’t like either of those, then this book probably isn’t for you (though, admittedly, my book is not satirical like SAVED!).

Anywho, when I sent the two songs I was most in love with for this book to my trusty CP, she immediately texted me back that I needed to watch the music video for “Hope in Front of Me” because it reminded her of my book already. Also, the Hubs weighed in and agreed that while both songs fit the bill, the tone of my current novel is more upbeat like “Hope in Front of Me.”

Either way, I’m sharing both today. Hopefully it can act as a little sneak peek as to what’s to come with my next novel.

Author Blog Hop: My Writing Process

So…I’m a bit behind on the bandwagon here. Some of my fellow author/writer friends have been doing a blog hop and I’ve been tagged by Kathleen Allen.

WHAT AM I WORKING ON?

I’m always working on a bazillion things at once. I’ve been editing my  YA light sci fi The Cured with Katelyn Stark of Stark Contrast Editing for the past couple of months, but took a break as I’ve been traveling a lot recently. In it’s place, I’ve found myself completely immersed in my new manuscript, a YA contemporary titled The Truth About Two Shoes, which I’ve been pretty hush hush about. It’s a Freaks and Geeks meets SAVED! type story that follows a pregnant 16-year-old pastor’s daughter who has been ostracized by  her once-perfect Christian friends. The title comes from the nickname her new slacker friends gave her. They call her “Two Shoes” because she was once a good-two-shoes, and now the “goodie” is gone. Honestly, it’s the first time I’ve felt like my characters have really come alive in this way before, and so far, the people who have read it (including my high school English teacher brother who is hard impossible to impress) have LOVED it. I’m working hard to polish it up in time for Pitch Wars in August!

HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN ITS GENRE?

My sci fi works tend to be different in that they aren’t as fantastical/otherworldly as others in that genre. I usually take sci fi-esque elements and put them in a normal or survivalist/primitive-type world or even in a more contemporary/modern-world setting (hence, why I call it ‘light sci fi’). My contemporary is unique in that I like to deal with issues but layer them with humor and suspense. I don’t like using buzz/trigger/hot button words to evoke emotions, but rather want the storyline and the characters to stir up the emotion in a deeper way that connects with the heart. Shock value for shock value’s sake isn’t really my thing and something I don’t appreciate as a reader. True shock and awe should come from a place of personal and emotional investment that is earned instead of forced.

WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?

I focus on YA/MG because I’m a big kid at a heart. I also feel like since I was pretty sheltered as a teen, my self-discovery phase was extended into early adulthood because it still took awhile for me to figure some things out. But I love the adventurous, hopeful, and insightful aspect of being a teen, and I want to convey that in my characters to entertain and inspire young people at the same time. I guess that being an over optimist, as my friends and coworkers often call me, makes me just as hopeful as some teens can be, and this is how I channel that part of myself.

 

HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?

Sometimes I’ll get an idea and just stew on it. I actually have an ongoing list I add ideas to until I have time or have thought long enough about how to develop them properly (It took me more than two years before I started The Cured after writing down the initial idea. Even The Truth About Two Shoes had been conceived (only somewhat pun intended) maybe three years ago with a different working title until one day the story completely clicked for me).

Then, I just write. I like to sit down and just hammer it out as far as I can go. Due to my background as a journalist on deadline and an IB student who was forced to handwrite 15-pages back and front in two hours for exams,  However, I never let it be forced. The second a story feels forced, I put it down and step away for a week or so and work on something else. But I love seeing where stories go and letting my characters telling me what they want to be or do. I also love working with fellow writers and readers, bouncing off ideas and gauging how they feel about certain things.

As for being a plotter vs. a pantser, I always thought myself as a pantser, but now I see the merit in having both aspects married into my writing process. On one hand, I do want my story to be fluid, organic, and allow my characters to take me wherever they want to go. On the other hand, my writing needs to be concise and meaningful. Right now, my process starts out more on the pantser side but then after getting probably to the 20,000 word mark, I’ll stop and re-evaluate where my story is going. Then, I’ll make a list of things that NEED to happen to reach the end. This list is vague so it’s only minor plotting with room for change and surprises. I also like to create charts for my characters that outline their individual strengths, flaws, loves, hates, and fears. This is something I’ve only recently adopted, but it really has added new depth to my characters and has helped me pinpoint what each character would do in certain situations rather than making them bend to my will for plot’s sake.

But in general, I just write when I can– during breaks, at lunch, during my free time at night– and unfortunately, I probably eat too much chocolate in the process.

And that’s me! Now I’m tagging the lovely and amazingly talented Emily Herring Dunn over at Newfangled Housewife who has two books up her sleeve that are just amazing!

One Thing I Do That Makes Me A Terrible Wife

Hi, my name is Nikki, and I have a problem: I am over the top afraid of expired food.

Especially lately, I for some reason have developed a super sniffer and can smell EVERYTHING within a mile radius of me. So my fear has only amplified. Seriously, every time I open the fridge, I’m like this:

Addison, of course, thinks I’m ridiculous. After all, the date on containers is really just the “sell by date.” I get it. I know it. But I’m still terrified of being poisoned.

So how does this make me a terrible wife?

Well…you know how in barbaric medieval times, Royalty hired “taste testers” to come drink and eat their food before them to make sure no one was trying to off the King? The way they’d know if the food was poisoned was if their taste-tester keeled over and died.

Yeah, I sorta make Addison do that. But in my defense, he totally does it willingly because he wants to prove how ridiculous I am. But the truth remains the same: I allow my husband to taste-test the food I’m pretty sure will kill me.

He did it for me today at lunch when I realized my yogurt looked sketchy (mainly because I glimpsed the container’s date after I had already packed it, but it was too late to repack my lunch). Apparently, I was once again ridiculous. The yogurt was fine and yes, I painstakingly ate it even though I still wasn’t 100 percent convinced.

I blame my crazy fear on eating a super clean/fresh/plant-based diet. When you try to eat as healthy as we attempt to, food can go bad fast. You can’t simply shop for two weeks and expect it all to be a-ok when you’re ready to chomp down on a cucumber. But then again, fermented food is becoming a trend now right? Yeah…I don’t think its really the same thing either… (besides, I’m scared of most pickles too.)

But while I’m appreciative of having my personal poison control, taste-tester under the same roof as me, I can’t help but feel guilty. What if for once I’m RIGHT and the rancid food KILLS HIM?

Addison says I don’t have to worry about that. Apparently it’s ludicrous to think I could ever be right. Oh husbands. That’s why I’ll try not to lose sleep over asking him to test the freshness of my food. ;-)

And that is why, sometimes, I’m probably a terrible wife.

Does anyone else have a fear of food that’s expired or gone bad?