Friday, April 26, 2013

Books for Thought

Before Kindles became popular, the only type of books I would read were sci-fi/fantasy, dystopian, paranormal, steampunk, etc., etc. I wasn't a fan of fluffy romances or angsty/drama filled stories. I wanted depth and plotting and thought provoking stuff. You know, the stuff that is so incredibly detailed and informative that you might have to re-read the book just to absorb it all.

But then something happened.

After swearing up and down that I would never own a Kindle, I caved. Well, that's not necessarily true. I actually don't own one, believe it or not. My mom got one for Christmas one year and I sneakily confiscated it. And for a while, my anti-mushy trend continued. And then I read one book that changed it all. I was craving something relatable, something with a character my age with problems like mine. I was just about to graduate high school and was facing decisions like choosing a college; stay or go, big or small, public or private, majors and loans and all that boloney. I picked up a book that caught my eye (which, let's face it, is almost every book) and I was hooked.

It's not like the story was amazing, or the writing flawless. But it was my first read like it, and so the story has stuck with me since then. And it opened a floodgate. I wanted more and for a time, it was all I read. Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, Jennifer Echols. Heck, even Nicholas Sparks and I had a thing. It's not like the content was riveting or thrilling or blood-rushing. It was just...enjoyable. Easy. Light. Fun.

But then I came across another problem; the characters were either too young or too old (no offense.) I didn't have anything in common with a sixteen year old just finding love, or a thirty five year old getting divorced, and so I strayed away from the romance and back to my old stomping grounds; back to the characters fighting for their lives and giving me a panic attack in the process.

Until now.

Now there's this whole new genre (well, I don't know how new it is) and they're calling it NA. The characters? Between the ages of 18-25 (usually.) Their problems? Whatever problems 18-25 year olds face! WAHOO! Needless to say, the genre has exploded, and almost every book I have read recently has fallen under that category. I am proud to say that even though I have caved and began using a Kindle, I only use it to read books that aren't traditionally published, or aren't originally offered in hard copy. I still buy books, and I still sniff the pages and refuse to crease the corners. Yeah, I'm that guy girl.

This weeks hardcopy read is: (drum roll please)

If you want to read something that will blow your mind and keep you up until the wee hours of the morning, read this series. Or better yet, don't. It will drive you mad with wonder.

And this week's Kindle read is:

*If you click on the pictures, they will lead you to the books Goodreads website. 

What are you currently reading? Is it on Kindle or hardcopy? And which do you prefer? 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Spring cleaning?

You know that things have gotten out of hand when you walk into your room and you can't see the ground. Like, literally cannot see where your feet are supposed to go. Granted, we have a king size bed and plenty of furniture to help with the unseeing ground issue, but really, that's a cop out.

I just didn't know where to start. There was sh*t everywhere. Clothes, suitcases (yes, from Tennessee. Don't judge me.) Books and pens and toys, oh my. I was overwhelmed.

But instead of putting it off and grabbing a book like I usually do, I got to work. And I clean. I actually cleaned.
Many of you are probably thinking, what's the big deal? But if you knew me, than you'd know. I picked up and organized and folded and dusted and vacuumed and dusted and vacuumed again. I don't think I've ever picked up so many tags. Like, clothes tags. From the store. I like to rip them off and leave them on the floor. I probably could have gone back six months and told you how much every piece of clothing in my closet cost. Well, needless to say, fifty thousand sneezes and thirty-six million groans later, it was done.
And again, if you know me, you know how big of a deal that is.
I, Raquel Valldeperas/Wyckoff, finished something besides a book.

Now all that's left to do is finish the laundry I started.

In other news, the second book to Toxic is currently in the works and coming along pretty nicely. I've got a working title and the whole plot pretty much figured out (in my head.) The writing is flowing, the words flying from fingertips to keys to computer screen. It's an awesome feeling, thinking something and seeing it come to life. It's even more awesome when it actually works out.

What? What's that, you say?

You want a teaser? A little taste? Well, since you've asked so nicely, here it is! Get ready to have your mind blown. (Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit. Maybe it'll be more like a hiccup instead of an explosion.)

              They both nods their heads, look anywhere but into my eyes. "Let us know if there's anything we can do," cop number two says, handing me a card. 
             My hand reaches out for it, but it's not my hand. My voice tells them thank you, but it's not my voice. I am not me right now. I am no one and everyone and all Emily and Joshua have left. I am no longer Nathan Hawkins, star quarter back at UM, or Nathan Hawkins, eldest child of Sarah and Wesley Hawkins. In this moment, I am just a boy who falls to his knees and cries for the parents he loved, the parents that were taken from him too fucking early. For the little boy upstairs who will never get the chance to truly understand how much they loved him. For the just barely seventeen year old girl who will be forced to grow up too quickly and without a mom. I cry for the injustice of it all, but mostly I wish it was me instead.

I'm hoping to be done writing by the end of May, and have the final draft ready to be published by the end of  June. It'll be longer than the first one and will definitely provide a lot more information since Nathan won't have chunks of time missing like Lo. Updates will be made as I go along!

Now that I've gotten the once-a-year-spring-cleaning out of the way, it's back to writing and reading for me!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Nashville Notes, Part 4

I'm not gunna lie, I've seen Hostel, the horror movie about- you guessed it- college kids at a hostel, who get kidnapped and brutally murdered. It was honestly the only thing running through my mind as we made the short walk from lunch to the hostel door. It faced the river, on the back of an industrial building surrounded by other similar buildings. With the sun on our shoulders and the crisp wind blowing our hair, we pulled open the double doors and walked through with our purses held tight to our sides and our heads held high.

It was completely different than we expected.

There were people everywhere, of every race and language. It was bright and wide open, clean and inviting. There was a piano, a fuseball table, a TV, couches, even a beer fridge. That was definitely the selling point for us.

Just kidding.

The check-in process took forever, but man was it entertaining. You see, Rachelle and I have this thing where we get real sarcastic and witty, and we play off of each other like we're being paid to be funny. Maybe I'm giving us a little too much credit, but the check-in guy just did not know what to do with us. I mean, we had to sign a contract that said we wouldn't bring any ferrets into the room. Really? What did he expect? After laughing so hard our cheeks hurt, and being told that we were "really cool" we made our way out to the car to grab our very heavy bags and go back to our room.

The rest of the building was just as surprising as the foyer. The walls were plain cement, the halls cold and drafty. But the elevator was made of glass and therefore completely open. The fourth floor where our room was located was simply decorated, each room named after a famous country star. And wouldn't you know it, our room was Alabama. The soundtrack to our entire trip thus far. It felt like we were right where we were meant to be. And though the hostel was definitely our last resort, due to the fact that we couldn't afford/find any other hotels, we were slowly beginning to realize that it would be our best memory of the whole trip.

Our plans for that Thursday evening involved going to an album release party for Ashley Monroe, and just in case you don't know who she is, she's part of the band Pistol Annies with Miranda Lambert. Yeah, we were excited. Of course, the night was cold, so we dressed in our long sleeve shirts bought specifically for the trip, and coats that, despite having been worn almost every day, still felt like too much clothing, and walked out of the room to come face to face with our "neighbors" across the hall. We exchanged names, talked a bit about where we were from and where we were going, and went on our way.

Although the bar was far, and it was cold, we decided to walk. Bad idea. It wasn't too bad on the way there, with the sun just dipping below the buildings. But on the way back? It was freezing. So cold that our jaws hurt from clenching and our backs ached from tensing. So cold that we practically ran two miles back to Broadway street, which is probably more than any of us have ran at one time. We ducked into the first bar we came across and ordered our drinks extra strong just to get us warm. In no time, we were back to feeling our fingers and toes. And the music.

The bar hopping commenced and in the process we ran into Utah and a couple of other people we had met the previous night. Oh, and the guy who checked us in and thought we were really cool? Yeah, we saw him too. So after a round (or two) of shots at the very last stop at 3 in the morning, we decided to call it a night. Check-in guy (names will not be disclosed) walked with us back to the hostel, since that was where he lived, and to our surprise, the lounge was bumping with people. After dumping our purses (and apparently a bag of goldfish) in our room, we joined the fuseball-playing, karaoke-singing, PBR-drinking crowd in the lounge.

Before we knew it, it was five o'clock in the morning, and Rachelle was demanding food, and because she's a chef and was hungry, she decided to cook spaghetti. At five o'clock in the morning. With a guy we named Washington who walked around without shoes, even though it was at least 25 degrees outside. It was probably the best spaghetti I have ever had. Maybe because it was five o'clock in the morning.
With full bellies, we stumbled up to our room in the wee hours of the morning, crunching on goldfish and running into one of our very sleepy neighbors who was very confused as to why we were walking around so early in the morning. He only became more confused when he found out we were just going to sleep.

And then came Friday morning. We rolled out of bed sometime around 11, completely regretting the lack of sleep and the last shots of the night. We trudged downstairs and found our neighbors occupying the couches in the lounge, where we sat and chatted before deciding that our stomachs might eat themselves if we didn't feed them. But since I had woken with the *coughcough* flu *coughcough* I couldn't make it to the lunch escapade, and instead hung out with our Michigan friends. After Rachelle and Arielle returned, we walked around in the light of day, stopping to by milkshakes (those crazy Michigan guys and their cold drinks on that very cold day) and talking and joking about anything and everything. The evening arrived and we split ways, the guys to their hockey game and us to dinner. Afterwards, we met up downtown and followed them (and our Australian friends) to a dueling piano bar.

We weren't sure what to expect, having spent all of our time in Nashville in honkey tonk bars (like you're supposed to) but we were pleasantly surprised. Those guys were seriously awesome, playing any song thrown their way, not only on the piano, but on the drums, the guitar, and singing. Talk about talented, but who isn't in Nash Vegas? After going to a few more bars, we made our way back to the hostel where we disturbed the peace until four in the morning. Check-in guy had to tell us to keep it down (who was he to talk, anyways?), Arielle lost our room key, which landed us locked out of our room until the next morning, and in some very uncomfortable sleeping arrangements.

On Saturday, we woke up with heavy eyes from lack of sleep and heavy hearts with the knowledge that we would be leaving Nashville in just a few hours time. We packed up our stuff in record time (we were used to it by then) and helped the messy Michigan boys pack theirs, and took off for breakfast. The Last Supper. A damn good meal, too. And even though we had only known them for two short days, the Michigan boys had become our friends. And even though Nashville had only been our home for a mere week, the farther away from it we got, the more misplaced we felt. The drive home was long but beautiful, serving only to remind us of the beauty we miss out on. Mountains and cliffs and waterfalls and miles and miles and miles of blue-tinged trees.

This is what happens after seven hours in a car.

We stopped in South Georgia for the night only to wake up and continue our drive home. Crossing the state line was like crossing into a different world. We went from barren and brown to alive and green. We began to see Florida in a different light. Is this what people see when they come here for the first time? we thought. Everything was just so green. Even the sky seemed bluer, the clouds crisper. When we stepped out of the car at Rachelle's house, we could literally smell the ocean in the air. And it smelled good. It smelled like home. It was hard to believe we were back, and even harder to believe it had only been ten days since we left. It felt like weeks had passed, and I was ready to go home.

Nashville left a mark on our hearts, put a dent in our souls. It opened our eyes, made us see how much bigger the world was. Even though at first it seemed like it was leaps and bounds better than crabby ol' West Palm Beach, I think it also made us realize just what we have. It made us realize that home is only as good as the people in it, and the people in our home are real good.

With all that said, CHEERS to Nash Vegas road trip 2014! Who's in?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Say What You Need to Say

So lately there has been a lot of hullabaloo going around about writing reviews. I guess the whole, if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all, adage is being taken pretty seriously. Not just in the kindergarten classroom, but on websites such as Goodreads and Amazon as well.

And, like, I guess I understand. You write a book, you spend hours and months and years putting all of this effort into these words that will be out there for the world to see, and then someone goes and bad mouths the crap out of you to their mom and their friends, who tell their hair stylists, who tell their daughters, who tell their friends- you get the idea.
It sucks. I get it.
But, honestly, it should  be expected. Not everyone is going to love you or your writing.

You could be the juciest peach in the world, and there will still be someone who doesn't like peaches.

I just love that saying, because it's so frikkin' true. And when you put it like that- well, there's just not a damn thing you can do about it. This is my theory.
I wrote a book. I wrote a book that uses curse words, has drug use and underage drinking, has sexual situations- not everyone is going to like my book. I'm not going to expect my pastor's wife to pick up this book and be like, best book ever!
Someone out there won't like the way I write. They'll hate my run-on sentences or the fact that I named my character Logan. They'll think it's so completely cliche and unrealistic. They'll write a review about it, tell all of their friends, post it on their Facebook page...

It's just not worth it to get mad. Will it change their minds? Will they all of the sudden like my book and take back their honest review?
I know that when I spend my money and my time on a book with all of these wonferful reviews, and it turns out to be awful, I get mad.

I feel like I've been lied to, betrayed. It makes me want to throw my kindle against a wall, and anything that makes me want to cause bodily harm to one of my most prized possessions is worth my nasty review.
It's not like I'll give a bad review because I didn't like how it ended. I won't even give a bad review if I don't like the story. If the writing is terrible, the dialogue grotesquely boring/unrealistic, the grammar atrocious, then I'll give it a bad review.

Readability. It's not too much to ask for, is it?
I don't think so.
I say, that if you want to leave a negative review, than so be it. Take it as constructive criticism, have a good laugh, and call it a day. If anything, it gives me an excuse to eat some ice cream.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Only You

Before I became involved with KDP Amazon (FB relationship status=it's complicated) I would see these free books and be like, Whaaaaat?! Why are these books free? Who would do that?

This girl would, apparently.

If you're like me and are wondering why anyone would spend months or even years writing a book, only to offer it for FREE, than let me give you a bit of insight.
Some people will tell you that you should write because you love it and not for the money. But let's face it; I love to write, and I would love if it made me money. Does that make me a bad person? I don't think so. For some people, simply having their work out there is payment enough.
For people like me, offering our books for free gives us the chance to get exposure. I mean, over 1,100 people now have my book on their reading devices. This afternoon, my book was listed on the same page as The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Really?! That might just be payment enough for me.

But in the long run, the number of downloads will hopefully boost my overall sales. Hopefully the people who have downloaded it and are reading it will leave reviews, which will also boost my rankings. The thing about this writing books thing is that it depends on YOU.

You buy it.
You read it.
You decide if you like it.
You decide to review it.
You decide to tell your friends about it.
Unless I'm prepared to go all spammy on everyone, there's only so much I can do. If there's anything that this past week has taught me, it's that there's a lot that I can do. I will never underestimate the job of marketing. Ever. Again.

In other news, I am in the process of preparing my book for paperback! My very own copy is on it's way to my front door as we speak (or as I write.) Hopefully it'll all work out and be up for sale by the end of the month. I will surely keep you all updated on that!

Infinite thank you's to everyone for taking the time to read my words, and for offering such positive feedback. It's an awesome feeling to be told that you're good at what you love to do.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Nashville Notes, Part 3

So far on the trip, we had been getting up early enough every morning for the free breakfast. Well, Wednesday was not one of those days. Hotel rooms have this thing where they stay completely pitch black, and no matter how many alarms you set, you stay asleep. For hours. And hours. And, well, you get the idea.

We figured, what the hell, took our time getting ready (aka curled our hair, picked out cute/comfortable/warm outfits) and made our way back to the neon lights district to find a place for lunch...because by the time we left the room, it was already lunch time.

The whole trip we had been using this app on our handy-dandy smartphones called UrbanSpoon, and just as usual, it took us to the best lunch place in town. If you think a grilled cheese sandwich is boring, think again. 
This was gourmet meets eight dollar price tag. It was awesome. And, on top of that, we had the best server ever. She was spunky, she was sweet, she had a southern accent, and she had served Blake Shelton more than once. Yeah, we had stars in our eyes.
After talking to her for an undisclosed amount of time, we decided to go ahead with our kind of crazy plan of making the drive to The Bluebird Cafe. If any of you have watched the show Nashville, then you'll know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, then here we go..

The Bluebird Cafe is a place for songwriters to gather and showcase their original songs. Some of them have been bought and played on the radio so many times that you and I could sing the songs by heart. Others are just starting out, but not in any way inferior to the big name guys. To get a seat in this cafe, you usually have to reserve them weeks in advance. They do have a section that is saved for first-come-first-serve, but it's full as soon as the doors are open.

Arielle, Rachelle and I showed up ten minutes before 6 and snagged the last three seats in the house. We were told that that never happens. The lights dimmed, the songwriters were introduced, and we held our breaths in anticipation. Let me tell you, The Bluebird Cafe did not disappoint.
We heard songs sung by Kenney Chesney, Randy Travis, Blake Shelton, The Band Perry....
Even the songs that hadn't been bought yet were amazing. It was magical. An experience I will never, ever, forget.

Of course, The Bluebird Cafe was followed up by another night downtown, where we ran into Utah (a girl from the bar Losers the night before) and listened to some more awesome music. But this time, the music was different. It was better. Because these guys, the nobodies giving it their all on a random stage in the middle of Nashville, they deserve the recognition. They put in the work and they have the heart.

Thursday morning followed with grunts and groans. Not only did we actually hear our alarms that morning, but it was also check-out day. You see, the plan was to leave Nashville Thursday morning and make our merry way to Memphis. It wasn't happening. There was still so much we wanted to do in Nash Vegas and anyone who was anyone told us that Nasvhille was the place to be. So we listened and went downstairs with the intentions of booking two more nights at the hotel. Except it was full.

And when we sat down at lunch (at the same restaurant as the day before) and searched the web for available hotels in the area, we came up with nothing. Nada. Zilch.
We were screwed. 
And then genius Raquel over here (that's me, guys) came up with the idea to research hostels in the Nashville area. God must have been looking out for us, because there were three. And one of them was literally around the corner from where we were. We booked the room, told them we'd be checking in at 3 p.m., and then bit our nails, because, three girls alone in a hostel? Sounds like a bad movie.

**Tune in next time for the rest of this epic story...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Admitting Defeat

I'm going to admit something here; self-publishing is not what I thought it would be. I mean, yeah, I knew it would be work. Writing a book was work. But this, this is completely different. Self-publishing ultimately involves self-marketing, and you would not believe the time some of these authors put behind that.
I'm overwhelmed.
I'm hearing about ads and websites and giveaways and promos and other words I've never even heard. I thought I was internet savvy. I thought I could find my way around a computer easy peasy. I was wrong. Very, very wrong. 

I've had to sign up for more sites than I have in the last five years combined. My email is blowing up. In fact, I had to make a new email just for the book. There's Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, LinkedIn, Blogger, Wordpress, Google+...I could go on. I don't even know how to use Twitter, much less remember to. 

If I'm being honest with myself, I have no idea what I'm doing. Last night I spent hours reading information on buying ads, and then reading contracts for said ads. Do I buy an ad with Google? Do I buy an add with Facebook? Where can I best reach my demographic? 
So. Confused.

If only I had known these things beforehand. Not that I wouldn't have self-published, because honestly, it's nice being in control, but I just wish I was more aware of the resources out there to help self-pub authors. Because there are so many. It's mind-boggling. 

I'm admitting defeat, but I'm not giving up.
Today commences day two of non-stop research for me and cartoons for Aubrey. Wish me luck.