community, self-publishing, writing

So, You Want to Be an Indie Author…

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You do? Huh, what’s wrong with you? Completely kidding. Total snark. Yes, come back here! Considering that I’ve successfully made it through my first year as a self-published author, I think a post with some advice for those hoping to enter this field is appropriate. And, really, you can approach me on Twitter or something, too, I swear I don’t bite. (Seriously, not ever, because I don’t like close physical contact with people I don’t know, and I am terrified of the zombie virus.)

First — welcome! Go, you! You’ll find we’re generally a very friendly community, and we support each other. Through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, you should be able to pretty quickly find some other authors who write/publish in your genre, and are more than willing to connect. (In fact, most of us don’t bite.) The readers’ base for indie works is growing, too, so reaching out to people who you hope to interest in reading (yes, even purchasing) your work one day is also important to networking and making new acquaintances.

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Next, here are my major tips for new self-publishers:

1. Do your research.

Not for social media connections or marketing platforms. Yes, do that, too. But in this instance, I’m talking specifically about your book. Is it fiction, or nonfiction? Which age group are you aiming it at (little kids, elementary school, teens, or adults)? What’s your setting (century, real or invented)? Whether you’re writing about real people or characters you made up yourself, you need to have the details of their lives right. Take into consideration slang of the era, the technology, religion, education level, industries, hobbies, cooking, fashion — all of it (even in a fantasy or sci-fi setting!) makes a BIG difference in whether your book really comes alive to readers.

2. Do the other kind of research.

For the marketing stuff. What’s your genre? Check out what other indies in that same genre have recently released. And do not compare yourselves to them. Do not even go there. Be looking for what readers said they liked — for example, do praise for worldbuilding and character growth seem to be major factors in garnering high-star reviews? Listen to them. Use this to your advantage. If an indie author has a big following (say, 5,000 people subscribe to their newsletter), check their site for anything they may have posted about how they developed their winning formula/strategy.

3. Don’t quit your day job.

Sorry, guys, but selling (realistically) a few dozen to a few hundred copies of your work a year won’t pay all the bills. A lot of self-published authors are also teachers, professors, librarians, college students, graphic designers, etc. (And if any of these occupations seem a bit cliche, hey, it happens to be the truth — most writers are people who have a good grasp of language, the entertainment culture, and creative endeavors.)

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4. Be informed of what trends, topics, and genres are currently hot in traditional publishing.

Not just so that you know what to avoid. Being informed is important so that you can decide what you want your own work to reflect. Are there particular tropes in your genre that you really want to turn inside out? Certain authors of the past (or present) that you’d like to pay homage to? Is there a movement or cultural discussion going on right now that you actually want to be part of? For example, as an autistic adult, I belong to a Twitter movement called #ActuallyAutistic, since too many of the books being published with “autism rep” are in fact authored by non-autism-affected individuals.

5. Time is not your friend.

It will not just hand over an extra 4 hours each day to you and you alone. Real life does not stop just because you are writing a book. Beating time into submission and making it your slave is vital. Carve out space in your schedule for writing, research, editing, proofreading, and marketing. Take plenty of breaks. On a daily basis, eat, sleep, exercise, be face-to-face with your family. An awesome perk of being an indie author is the ability to set your own deadlines.

6. Learn about creative writing.

There are many ways to do this. Read books by editors or successful writers (in this case, yes, I do mean lots of sales), watch podcasts, join a group at your local library or on Goodreads. This covers everything from flushing out characters to make them feel more real or writing dialogue that doesn’t read like a 1950s laundry detergent commercial, to tips on hosting giveaways of your new release and not spamming your Twitter feed with “buy my book or my dog will eat your comfy slippers.”

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7. Interact with your readers. 

After all, without them, whether you’re just posting on Wattpad or Tumblr, or you’re actually printing or releasing digital copies and hoping to get paid, you don’t have much going. Writing is meant to be read. So reply to their comments, thank them for their support, respond to their questions about your future plans for the series/next title.

8. Choose your platforms. 

This should probably come earlier in this list, actually. If social media seems terrifying, DON’T DO IT. Yes, it’s a big part of marketing, but you are not required to have an account on every single site under the sun. I limit myself to Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. I find Goodreads to be especially kind to indies, as they give your books all the stuff trad authors have — the ability for readers to star rate, review, interact with you, share with each other. And it’s free to join.

9. Carefully select your printer/distribution center. 

I tried to work with Amazon, and just creating an account for self-publishing made my head want to explode. I did not find their system helpful or not confusing. Plus I heard they weren’t paying indies as much as they really should be. So, to start with, I found a local printing press that does individually copyrighted books, and for a reasonable cost, they formatted, proofed, put together the cover design, and printed 100 copies of the first edition of Masters and Beginners. It got my baby out into the world, and I was very happy.

The reason I decided to switch to Barnes & Noble’s Nook Press was because the price of shipping all my orders myself became a bit rough on the wallet, and on the socially anxious part of me. (I was becoming slightly paranoid that the post office clerks rolled their eyes every time they saw me walk in the lobby.)

Barnes & Noble has been awesome in helping me through formatting or account concerns, I find their uploading/proofing software very simple to use, and they do the shipping for me.

10. Have fun. 

Writing is also meant to be fun for the writer. Yes, publishing is work. But if it ever becomes a hassle or feels like a struggle, take a step back and remember why you’re trying to craft those words. Recently, I read in a review of Rulers and Mages that the ending was “slightly evil and hurt my heart (in the best way)”. That’s why I do this, folks.

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blogging, writing

Call for Guest Posts and Interviews!

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Hello there! So, remember how I said I need to spend more time branching out on blogging stuff and on writing my fiction projects? Well, who here would like to help me out by being a guest poster or interviewee?

If you’re interested, just shoot me an email! (The address in the heading/sidebar works just fine.) I’ll have a questionaire arranged for interviews, and I’m thinking of putting together a guest series on indie author experiences, writing patterns, etc.

Happy writing, moths!

self-publishing, writing

First Update/Announcement/Plan Change of 2018! (Hopefully the Last…?)

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I am in danger of becoming far too whishy-washy on my entire goal for this year of writing more effectively. I’ll admit it. Maybe it’s because I’ve been sick lately, and therefore my whole brain is a little, er, off, but late last night I began debating what to do about my current WIPs. In the middle of alternating chills and hot flashes. Yup, not the best way to mentally edit…

Anyway, I realized something in the clear of the morning: If it is only January and I am already getting this wigged out over going all-out-perfectionist on my WIPs (that are still in first draft format), then this is not healthy and I need to chill.

So, here’s the first idea that came to mind — Taking something off my present plate. My goal for finishing and releasing up to 5 books in the next 12 months is, well, AAAARRRGGHHGHHGH. Not good. What was I…

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Okay, here’s a new, more sane plan — Aim for 3 books in the next 12 months. That’s one a quarter. Do-able.

And I think I’m going to put my “How To Be A Savage” project on the backburner for now. It’s still a jumble of mess-from-failed-NaNo-project and brief-attempts-at-starting-to-fix-afore-mentioned-mess. While I still really want to pursue this idea, it’s not something that I need to be attacking right now. Not when I’m literally waking up in the middle of the night and thinking, “What if this Hunter/Scholar/Ambassador went to this Annex/country/the fey realm before so-and-so new character shows up/after big mind-blowing incident occurs?!” Yup, my brain is just packed full of Twelve Tribes stuff at the moment.

So this is a bad time to be trying to totally switch gears in terms of genre, characters, and themes. And a very good time to be immersing myself in what my brain definitely wants to concentrate on.

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Also, lately I’ve had some feedback about certain storylines and characters that readers would like to see more of. Now, while I can’t make any promises — as there is ALREADY Volumes 3 and 4, the field guide, and my collaboration with White Fang on the table — I may look into the possibility of expanding previous short stories or giving particular people their own novella. PERHAPS. Nothing is set in stone yet, folks.

Next, I’m considering putting up a few snippets posts. Anyone interested in that? I haven’t done that before, so at the moment I remain undecided and slightly wibbly-wobbly on the matter. Let me know.

Okay, onto the pressing issue of possible release dates for Volumes 3 and 4:

Certainly high on my list of priority goals for 2018. Obviously Volume 3 has to come first, and my initial hope was to do so before spring. Well, that’s still the hope. But I will be flexible and not owl-mail myself a Howler if I don’t submit my proofs by March 31st. In the interest of maintaining self-discipline (and not encouraging my readers to riot at my front door — don’t, by the way, my front yard has a very steep bank and a dying tree and old rabbit holes, it’s not a fun place to be), I shall make sure that I submit my proofs by no later than mid-April, though.

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With regards to Volume 4 — be patient, grasshoppers. My sincere hope is to have it out in the world by the end of July at the latest. (Remember, those other projects to complete as well.) However, as we’ve all experienced, something may happen to alter that time frame. (As the most recent 3 days of monitoring my temperature and not being able to walk faster than a turtle on caffeine proves.)

God willing, I’ll be up and running again by the end of this week. There’s been nothing for this thing but a lot of rest. I was even too ill to feel guilty about not working on anything for 72-plus hours straight.

(The moral of the story — indie authors, don’t let yourselves be coerced into taking on too much! Take care of yourselves and your families first! Your readers love your work for what it is, and are just happy when you release more. Most of them don’t mind waiting a little, and some of them are even so kind as to send delivery llamas to your door with packages of soup and tea and cats. So don’t worry that you’re letting them down by needing to delay your next publication for 2 weeks or even 2 months.)

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community, writing

To NaNo or Not to NaNo?: That is the Question

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Yes, it really is. Because although, yes, NaNoWriMo did finish in November, Camp NaNo starts in April, and let’s face it, that is a mere 75 days away! Now, before you all want to hit me for reminding you of how fleeting time is (and how fragile that makes you feel as a human being, and a bookdragon), I would like to point out that I am not the one who came up with the idea of writing the entire first draft of a novel within a month.

In 2016, I participated in the contest that runs from November 1st to November 30th for the first time, and I reached the goal of 50,000 words on November 28th. (In fact, it was 51,000 words and some change.) I was feeling pretty darn proud of myself, when I clicked on the “winner’s circle” link on the website to see what I’d won. Since I knew NaNoWriMo is supported by donations, and there’s no fee for writers to enter, I wasn’t expecting much — maybe a few sacks of free pens and notebooks and paperback editions of the latest Nora Roberts or something. However, it really brought me down to discover that NaNo winners have to pay for everything offered in the package — editing and writing software, subscription boxes, even the t-shirt that says “I won NaNo.”

Yup, you read that right. Pay for what you “won.” Not full price, though — you get, like, a 40% discount. That’s apparently how they justify making you bust your behind for 30 days and feeling like hell at the end of it for nothing except street cred and bragging rights.

Now, maybe it’s just me, but this system seems tremendously unfair. After all, when I am told there are “prizes,” I hear that as “free after completing said criteria.” For example, when you enter a giveaway on a blog, and the requirement is: a) put a comment on this post, b) tweet about this post, and c) if you win, you get a free copy of the new Maggie Stiefvater. Just what it says on the tin.

So, given that I had just put myself through a month of blood, sweat and tears (in some cases very literally), evidently for nothing other than the chance to plaster it all over Twitter, it made me rather discouraged.

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It also made me seriously reconsider the idea of signing up for Camp NaNo, or regular NaNo, in 2017. Although I did participate in Camp NaNo in April, I was not at all satisfied with the end result, and ended up making a lot of major changes to what was supposed to be a final draft. What was my downfall? I truly believe the strict time factor. Having only 30 days to attempt a full-length piece of fiction is just not realistic, relieving, or creatively-inspiring.

We’ve all heard there are writers who “work best under pressure.” I don’t buy this for a second. Consider, instead, the very wise words of Douglas Adams: “I love deadlines — I love the sound they make as they go whooshing past.” As with any creative occupation, writing is an individual process, the completion of which pertains to the particular requirements of that specific work. Yes, there are benefits to setting a time frame and sticking to it. But too many times (especially for indie authors, or indie photographers, artists, unpaid bloggers and reviewers), this just is not how life will go.

In the past two years, I’ve seen many people start NaNo, finish it, not finish it, decide to quit, feel pressured to quit, feel pressured to finish. When we have to pay for the t-shirt, for the love of pete, is all of this anxiety and stress really necessary?

Yes, a lot of former NaNo winners have gone to receive publishing contracts, or become indie authors. But NaNo is not our only route to this end. Plenty of literary agencies accept submissions from people who’ve never even heard of the contest. When you open a self-publishing account on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, there isn’t a question, “Have you ever won NaNoWriMo?”

So, although I have plenty of time to reconsider, here’s why I’m actively talking myself out of getting involved in NaNo in any capacity in 2018:

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It is very time consuming. I can’t stress this point enough. November is a busy month, as it includes the start of holiday shopping, Thanksgiving, and usually a lot of school stuff, like mid-term progress reports and special ed meetings. Attempting to write 1700 words a day on top of just living becomes way too hard. (Again, for what reason?)

Quality over quantity. Yes, a first draft completed in a month is going to be chock full of typos, plot holes (big enough to drive a Mack truck through), misspelled characters’ names, and whole sentences that don’t really make any sense. But for those of us — like me — who prefer to write slower to begin with, so that there are less mistakes to fix later, the pressure to get those numbers up becomes a chore. Aren’t we supposed to be creating a labor of love here, not just a labor?

There are other things to life than writing. Yes, this is true, I swear it. Those of us who write as more than a hobby feel the very real pressure of making time for perfecting our craft around family commitments, other jobs or pursuits, and the occasional emergency or unforeseen occurrence. And, I promise, the world will not end if you can’t get that WIP done the same week as grocery shopping/the family portrait for the Christmas card/the cat’s trip to the vet. No one will think any less of you for saying you can’t do NaNo because, reasons. (And if they do, that’s their problem, not yours at all.)

Are there good things about NaNo? Yeah. It encourages self-discipline, and the freedom of not being a perfectionist, and achieving the hard first step of getting that new WIP underway.

But taking into account that the rewards are not quite worth the cost (at least in my view), I think I’m going to opt out from now on.

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blogging, books, writing

The Past, Present, and Future of The Invisible Moth

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My blog is 3 years old this January! Did I remember? Not at all! WordPress sent me a congratulatory notification. At least once I saw it, memory clicked.

In January 2015, I started this blog with little more than a domain name and a lot of nerves. I knew very little about blogging, networking, social media, and really this whole world. After a few months, I started to get the hang of following others, blog-hopping (understanding that term), and not only building community (not “only”, though, it’s important!), but I was also beginning to get a feel for what I really wanted this space — my space — to encompass.

For most of 2015 and 2016, I’d been researching self-publishing options, trying to get a better handle on whether it would be for me, the possible pitfalls, and determine if I should pursue it, or go back to continuing attempts at submissions to literary agents.

Well, if you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know that I went with self-publishing, and it’s a good fit. I love being able to share my experiences and thoughts and writing process with you all through blogging and social media connections.

 

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I also get to use author platforms such as Goodreads and connect with my readers (and I have readers!) and obsessively stalk — ahem, I mean, have the chance to check in with reviewers, book stats for my titles, and find out what awesome stuff is going on with other indie authors.

To say that I feel blessed to be part of this community just doesn’t do the sentiment justice.

So, now that I’ve reached another milestone, what awaits for The Invisible Moth in 2018?

Well, other than I’ll certainly still be here with publishing updates, reviews, and probably the occasional giveaway, I have to admit that most likely I won’t be blogging as much this year.

Seems a bit odd after working so hard to reach my current status, huh? This has been a hard decision to make. While I’m definitely not quitting blogging, or even going on a hiatus, there are particular goals I want to focus on this year that will take more time than the universe is willing to give me. Since I, sadly, am not in possession of a Time Turner or a TARDIS, I need to choose how quickly I want to accomplish a, b, and c, and what I may have to set aside temporarily in order to do so.

 

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Hence, I really need to devote more of my waking hours to writing things that are not blog posts.

In the past, I’ve toyed with the notion of cutting back, then felt guilty, tried, failed, given up the concept, become slightly overwhelmed, and come back to it.

So, my new schedule for blogging will probably look like a new post once a week, and I’ll stick to reviews and WIP stuff for a bit. Once I get more of this stuff polished off (closer to summer), chances are I’ll feel like expanding back to in-depth discussions and maybe even trying new topics.

At the moment, though, there are THINGS that my brain needs to devote its energy to.

So that you have amazing stuff to read in the near future.

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Remember, I am still looking for ARC readers for How To Be A Savage — and a cover designer. I’m opening it up to a sort of contest format, like before, and if you’re interested in coming up with a cover for a novel about autistic superheroes/spies, drop me a line! (The contact information under my heading works for everything from inquires about book sales to submitting artwork to asking polite questions about Toby’s well-being.)

Here’s to 2018 being awesome!

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blogging, books, writing

Planning Ahead: Expanding the Platform, Attending Conferences, Confirming Publishing Goals

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Good morning! Hope you’re all staying warm!

Let’s get right to it — plenty to discuss this time.

One: The idea of me starting making video reviews.

Okay, the very thought of joining YouTube and struggling with all of their technical issues (and some of their not-very-nice viewers) makes me start to hyperventilate. White Fang has a YouTube channel, and some of his experiences have been wonderful, others not so much.

Plus, I do not extrovert — things like appearing in front of the camera. (The person who suggested I branch out in this method really needs to double check how well he thinks he know me.)

Anyway, there has been the recommendation that I could remain audio-only and do a few reviews with screen shots or something as background. Hmmm… I might experiment with that notion. I’d probably try out the first video on Twitter or Facebook, though, rather than just throw myself to the wolves of YouTube.

(Professional YouTubers have my undying respect. Seriously.)

Let me know what you think of all this!

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Two: I might try to go to a writers’ conference this year.

I went to one a couple years ago, and while I was only there for one day, and it was a small conference center, and I managed to survive the whole thing largely unscathed, it was still HARD.

Remember, the me no extrovert clause.

Also, I didn’t know anyone there, and I wasn’t yet a published author, and the market for speculative fiction (what I primarily write) just didn’t exist at this particular spot. Quite a shame on that bit…

Anyway, people are already flailing over Realm Makers 2018, and while attempting to attend this would be a WHOLE BIG THING for me (just imagine me running around my house screaming at the very possibility), it would be a lot of fun.

So, what do you reckon, moths? Should I look into this?

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Three: Firming up my publication ambitions for this year.

So, here’s what I would really like to do:

Publish How To Be A Savage before winter’s over.

Release Volume 3 sometime this spring.

Get the field guide out shortly after.

Make sure Volume 4 is ready to go before the end of 2018.

Here’s my back-up plan: Savage, Volume 3, field guide on tap prior to the calendar changing to 2019, Volume 4 coming to fruition early next year.

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Given that, after all of that, White Fang and I will start seriously attacking our collaboration standalone sequel (and of course he’ll be in school until June, which limits his availability for this project in the meantime), I think this is certainly enough to have on my plate at present.

Next question: Who here is interested in an ARC for How To Be A Savage?

Who here wants to design the cover?

Please form an orderly queue, over to your right.

I’ll be accepting comments on everything mentioned above until I get satisfactory answers. (Don’t worry, I don’t bite. Remember, I’m close-contact-phobic.)

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reading, The Invisible Moth, writing

Year-End Wrap-Up (How Did This Happen?)

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So, as we are all painfully aware, we just days away from the end of 2017. Hence, I’m going to finish up this calendar page with a recap of all kinds of stuff I did in the last 12 months.

Okay, not really. Because although I know I was very busy, I cannot remember 89% of what I actually did. My guess is I must’ve been even busier than I realized, which is why so much of it is a blur.

Well, there are some things I can concretely tell you:

  • I set my Goodreads challenge at 20 books, and somehow managed to read 68.
  • At last count, my blog was up to 240 followers, and Twitter had climbed to 195.
  • I published not one, not two, but three (!) books.

Also, White Fang started high school, and Muffin started preschool, and believe me, this was a big deal.

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Yes, I went from just being a blogger who was frantically trying to finish a novel someday, to being a writer who had not only finished a novel but had it printed.

And it was getting pretty well-received, which really made my year. That led to boosting my confidence high enough to start working on the immediate sequel.

And, I shared some of my short stories and flash fiction on the blog, and that went over pretty well. So I decided to put the major ones together in an anthology.

My Goodreads page rather quickly went from being just a reader to being an author with a bibliography.

This is really such a huge thing; sometimes I still can’t believe it.

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There’s a massive rush in walking into your local library and seeing something you wrote on the shelf.

So, apart from that… Hmm, did anything else happen in 2017?

Oh, yes — I won NaNoWriMo for the second year in a row, and I gave a talk on self-publishing to a small group at said local library.

The latter will most likely lead to future engagements (huzzah!).

Here’s how I felt about the former:

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NaNoWriMo was brutal this year. One, I hadn’t completely finished my last edits for Volume 2, and was, in fact, trying to do those on a few days here and there in November, around my NaNo project. (This is highly not advised; I don’t recommend attempting it to anyone.)

Then I discovered (after writing nearly 39,000 words on my NaNo draft) that I didn’t like the way the story was going at all and would probably end up scraping it entirely.

But after coming that far, the idea was just loathsome. So, I decided to be a NaNo “rebel.” Since I wrote brand new 4,000 + words in the final edits of Volume 2 between November 2nd and somewhere around the 18th, I included those in my tally. Then I wrote two potential first chapters for How To Be A Savage at roughly 2500 words each, and (praise the Lord) I was done.

All of this has made me seriously question whether I want to participate in NaNo next year. But, thankfully, that’s 11 months away.

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In other, non-writing things — as already mentioned, I did manage to read a lot this year. More than I’d read in a 12-month span since well before Muffin was born. To be fair, I owe a lot of that to him, since now he gets regular bedtime stories (in fact he grows quite concerned if we suggest skipping one night), and while we also re-read a ton with him, I also get to try new picture books that I hadn’t read with White Fang.

And, oh, yeah, if you’re reading 10 new titles a month to a small child, that certainly helps advance that progress bar on Goodreads.

Most of the YA/MG selections I chose were, however, sadly disappointing. There were some real gems as well (happily). Some of my top favorites for 2017 (regardless of publication year) included:

  • The Beast of Talesend, The Tomb of the Sea Witch, and The Stroke of Eleven by Kyle Robert Shultz
  • Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
  • Guardian Cats and the Lost Books of Alexandria by Rahma Krambo
  • A Matter of Temperance by Ichabod Temperance
  • Girl Online by Zoe Suggs

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Oh, yeah, and somewhere along the way, White Fang went from watching The Thundermans and Henry Danger to watching The Big Bang Theory and The Walking Dead. Guess that has something to do with him going from being 13 to being 14.

So, now, here we are, another year gone, and definitely a lot accomplished! Here’s to a healthy, productive, and happy 2018!

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