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Best Conference Ever!!

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My critique partner, Kimberley Ash, and I rock our steampunk costumes!

This past Friday and Saturday, I was proud to be a part of the 2017 Put Your Heart in a Book Conference. From the time I first started planning with the conference committee last year–led by our incredible Conference Chair, Casey Hagen–I knew that this year was going to be special. We had a dynamite line-up of speakers including Kristin Higgins, Dameon Suede, Elizabeth Hoyt, Eileen Dreyer, and Nancy Herkness. The conference schedule was also revised so that the awards ceremony occurred at the very end of the conference as an excellent crescendo, and the kick-off party on Friday night was given a steampunk theme that was just too fun!

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My critique group: Arell Rivers, Noella Phillips, and I gone steampunk chic. 🙂

IMG_20171015_193436Eileen Dreyer’s pre-conference workshop, “The Basics are Still the Same,” addressed what she felt were the basics of good writing that have gotten lost in the sprint to self-publish (or publish more frequently with a house). It was an excellent review of what makes quality fiction and some pitfalls to avoid given through the lens of literary elements.

I attended Dameon Suede’s pro retreat as well as an incredible workshop on character. If you’ve ever been to one of his workshops, you know that he’s not only brilliant but a fiery teacher.

IMG_20171015_193405Kristin Higgins gave a heartfelt keynote at breakfast about her experiences as a soon-to-be published author, how there is no secret handshake, and how difficult a career as an author can be whether you are just starting out have been lucky enough to achieve success.

Elizabeth Hoyt gave a special presentation on heros as well as a workshop on emotion I attended. I was able to fangirl with her for a couple of minutes. I’m currently reading her Maiden Lane series and absolutely adore her!

Nancy Herkness, an incredibly kind and welcoming person, was one of the first writers who got to know me when I joined RWA. Her lunch keynote featured many of the struggles she’d had as a writer including a going several years without being able to publish. One anecdote that really stuck out to me was how one of the members of her family who was always asking when she was going to write a “real book,” finally read one of Nancy’s books. He called her to tell her how much he enjoyed it and how he wished he’d known about books like that when he was a young man because he probably would have learned from them and done better in his relationships. She went back to a theme that I heard often at the conference–how romance is the genre of hope. Even a man in his 90s was able to learn from it. It’s never too late. 🙂

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Me with Kimberely Ash, Arell Rivers, and Noella Phillips at the awards ceremony.

During the awards ceremony for The Golden Leaf (our published contest) and The Put Your Heart in a Book Contest (our unpublished contest), there was so much positive energy and support in the room. My young adult paranormal, BENEATH US, took third place in the young adult category, and my new adult paranormal, THE TWENTY-EIGHTH KISS, took second place in the paranormal category. It was an incredible honor to final and so cool to see my titles written large across the presentation screen!

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My steampunk centerpieces with hand-made book page roses. 🙂

I worked up a sweat in-between workshops and other events arranging our decorations, but it all came together beautifully! I’m already pumped for next year’s conference which includes another outstanding line-up of speakers, but for now, I’m happy to kick back with one of the tons of books I brought home from goody room. #amreading #amreflecting And tomorrow morning–I’ll be back to #amwriting. 🙂

 

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Playlist: Summer of 2017

Hey all!

I’m drawing toward the end of this draft and just thought it would be fun to share some of the songs that drove me through it. Here are a few gifts Pandora gave me:

Lord Huron – “The Night We Met”

Laura Veirs – “Shadow Blues”

The 1975 – “Me”

Marika Hackman – “Before I Sleep”

Oh Wonder – “Technicolor Beat”

Daughter – “Youth”

Gunship – “Revel in Your Time”

Agnes Obel – “Fuel to Fire”

Billie Eilish – “Ocean Eyes”

 

What are some of your favorite new or just new-to-you songs from this summer?

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I’m a Double Finalist in NJRW’s Unpublished Contest!

PYHIAB-2017-finalistHey all! I’m honored to announce that my new adult paranormal, THE TWENTY-EIGHTH KISS, and my young adult paranormal, BENEATH US, have both finaled in New Jersey Romance Writers’ Put Your Heart in a Book Contest!

I’m especially stoked about this contest for a few reasons. One is that NJRW is my home RWA chapter and it rocks! These writers have been incredibly supportive and I love them dearly. Several of my critique partners are from this group, and since we’ve shared a lot of the same professional development through workshops, conferences, books, the loop, and conversations, I feel we have a common language and a true professional community.

Another reason that makes this contest special is that the results will be announced during an awards ceremony that serves as the climax of NJRW’s October conference. We have an incredible line-up this year of speakers and presenters, and I just know that no matter the results of the contest, this year’s conference is going to be the best yet!

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Why I Write

coffee-2306471_1920Biggest reason: I write because I enjoy reading so much, but more on that later. 🙂

I write because it feels good to let my muse run wild. And I don’t have to be perfect–not on the first go. I can write and rewrite a scene until it works. I can put better words in my characters’ mouths and give them stronger motivations. Stronger hearts.

I write because I love to play with words and with plots. An English major to the end, I can’t help deconstructing movies and books. There’s a thrill that comes with uncovering metaphors, themes, and more that I hope to reproduce for my readers.

I write because I hope. That’s the essence of romance–that Happily Ever After.

My first exposure to romance was through fairy tales. I love the darker nature of true fairy tales along with the magic, adventure, and happy endings. Later, I got a taste of romance in novel form including my gateway drug to paranormal romance, L.J. Smith’s Soulmate. (Love you L.J.!) There were also the Harlequins poorly hidden in the back of the family closet and romantic movies from Disney to Dirty Dancing.

I write because I love where I live. Maybe I’m partial because I’m from NJ, but there is so much change over the landscape here. It’s more than the variations over the shore, farmlands, mountains, and cities. It’s the local color and how local–how different it can be from town to town. It’s gorgeous, white-sand pine trails and moldering, ancient, abandoned cinemas. There is darkness to my writing and the alternate Jersey (names changed to protect the innocent, etc., etc.), but it’s infused with splashes of light. With color. With hope and the strange and, of course, magic. I love to play with fantasy, tropes, atmosphere, desires, geek life, grit, and the Jersey world I grew up in to create something entirely new.

Finally, I write because I think there is a place in this world for every strange little story. There are many goals tied into writing for me, but the biggest by far is to connect with an audience who wants this mix of darkness and light in their books. I believe in happy endings and write them, but there’s nothing saccharine about then ends of my stories. Instead, I write endings that make sense with the characters and the story world. Sacrifices are made and happiness is earned.

I would consider myself incredibly lucky to connect with readers who would love romance, world-building, and the way that I twist it all together. Maybe one day. 😉

 

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THE TWENTY-EIGHTH KISS finaled in the Fool for Love Contest!

So I haven’t posted in a while, and I’m curious–how is everyone out in blog land? Have you read any un-put-downable books lately??

I have a few recommendations:

  • IT ENDS WITH US by Colleen Hoover — Not your usual NA romance. A must-read, heart-breaking, bone-deep book.
  • FRIGID by J. Lynn (Jennifer L. Armentrout) — Incredibly hot friends-to-lovers NA romance.
  • WICKED INTENTIONS by Elizabeth Hoyt — The first in her Maiden Lane Series. I went back for this on after reading DUKE OF SIN. This is not your usual historical romance. Hoyt is a master! Check her out for beautifully-written, outside-of-the-box characters.
  • VAMPIRE MINE by Kerrelyn Sparks — Sparks is the kind of author that reminds me of why I started writing paranormal in the first place. She strikes a perfect balance between the high stakes of a dangerous universe and the quirky humor of its characters.

FFL Finalist (1) (1)So I have news. 🙂 I’m excited to share that my new adult paranormal romance, THE TWENTY-EIGHTH KISS, finaled in Virginia Romance Writers’ Fool for Love Contest!

This contest holds special significance for me since I finaled last year with my young adult paranormal romance, BENEATH US. Awards were presented at a tea party themed luncheon hosted by VRW that I attended. I was ecstatic to hear that my YA project took first place in the young adult / new adult category! We were given out tea cups as gifts after the luncheon, and I keep mine on the counter for good luck and as a reminder of all the awesome writers I met that day.

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Me last year at VRW’s tea party. 

Now, I’m crossing my fingers for my new project, THE TWENTY-EIGHTH KISS! This is the eighth RWA chapter contest in which this project has finaled. TTEK took first place in three contests so far: The Heart-to-Heart Contest, The Beacon Contest, and The Four Season’s Contest. For more, see my Projects page.

Michelle Joyce Bond

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Ramblings on New Adult

engagement-1718244_1920I’ve debated about writing about the genre of new adult for a time because I have a sense that there many writers and readers with strong opinions on this topic. I am not an industry expert and feared that if I wrote about this, I’d only expose what I didn’t know. But I am, as anyone must be who devotes hours a day to something, passionate about the genre. The bossy part of me wouldn’t let me get away without blogging about it. I set out in this entry to put down my personal observations about new adult based on my experiences as a reader and a writer of new adult.

First, I suggest reading this article from Publisher’s Weekly which, though a couple of years old, does a fabulous job of outlining a generally accepted understanding of the genre as well as its potential in the marketplace: click here.

NA features characters in their late teens and early twenties who are transitioning into the adult world. Whether we are talking about college experiences, a first career job, or a first big romance, these experiences present challenges to the characters. NA can be higher in intensity and emotion than adult since the stakes are often higher. Think about how many life-altering decisions are made in that short period of time. People choose careers. They choose where they will live. They make friends and connections that may last their entire lives.

NA is not a stepping stone from YA to adult. To assume so is insulting to the audience, whose ages range wider than the characters’ ages. It’s also missing the point of the NA genre which is to define this hot spot in the continuum of a character’s life. It’s the place storytellers so often revisit because it’s exciting to imagine oneself at that point of change. It is not so much a coming-of-age story as it is an okay-I’m-of-age…now-what? kind of story. NA characters are complex. They have a deep understanding of the world based on experiences, and that understanding will be challenged. Like most good fiction, there will be sacrifice and change.

young-couple-1031642_1920NA has been breaking ground in the digital market, and I love my digital books! In print, it’s been tougher for NA authors to break through. As a consumer of fiction, if there was a clear place for NA in the bookstore aside from the occasional end cap, I’d gravitate there. But NA, for the most part, has been mixed up with YA or adult books.

 

Here’s a list of some NA books I’ve read and loved (in no particular order):

FRIGID by Jennifer L. Armentrout

FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell

HOPELESS by Colleen Hoover

A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES by Sarah J. Maas

UNTEACHABLE by Leah Raeder

DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor

JERSEY ANGEL by Beth Ann Bauman

SHE LAUGHS IN PINK by Jessica Calla

BEAUTY TOUCHED THE BEAST (BEAUTY SERIES) by Skye Warren

SCARLET RAIN by Kristin Cast

AT ANY PRICE by Brenna Aubrey

PERFECT CHEMISTRY by Simone Elkeles

As always, I am adding books to my TBR list. Two NA books I’m excited to read next are THE BEAUTIFUL ASHES by Jeaniene Frost and DREAMS OF A WILD HEART by Danube Adele–both paranormal NAs.

Do you have a favorite NA book or a few? Let me know–I’d love to hear about them!

Michelle Joyce Bond