Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Father's Day

My father's day post is delayed. BUT. I haven't technically celebrated Father's Day yet seeing as how my dear dad was returning home from a ten day business trip to China. Let's just say he was not in the celebrating mood after that entirely too long flight and eating nothing but rice and candy bars for ten days because that's all he could recognize.

I actually really love celebrating my parents A) because they always treat me so well on my birthday and the other 364 days out of the year and B) because they don't really celebrate themselves. My mom has dedicated her life to our family and her own work and volunteer work. My dad works his big brain to exhaustion providing for us and kind of making a difference in the world of biofuels (please don't ask me any further questions, I don't fully understand it). So really, they deserve to be celebrated.

I've been trying to think of some of the great literary fathers to compare my dad too, but I realize that there aren't any because Tim Rials is his own kind of dad--hilarious in his weird, witty way; serious when it comes to work; protective when it comes to me and mom; maybe a little overly caring when it comes to our dog Buddy. He taught me how to blast music in the car and not open the door until the song is over. He stopped me from falling in the lake when I caught a rainbow trout that was nearly as big as I was at age 5. He let me ride up in the front seat to get those narrow little bottles of mini M&Ms from the gas station.

Now, he encourages me, sells my book to scientists who otherwise probably wouldn't pick up Ascension, teaches me how to work hard (sometimes a little too hard). From him, I know that alone time is important for personal sanity. Dogs are also key to personal sanity.

Without trying, he gains respect from the people around him. Apparently while in China, he was served Duck Blood soup. I told this to a friend, and he came back with, "Well, they don't serve duck blood soup to just anyone." Maybe it's the grey hair that makes him so distinguished, but I don't think that's it. I think it's his calm, professional manner, his easy smile, his quick jokes and sharp wit, and the humility to never acknowledge any of this.

So happy belated father's day to all the daddio's out there! I can't wait to celebrate with mine this Sunday!

Until the next holiday,

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

May Book Round Up

Yes, I'm a few days late, but I'm just going to use Book Expo as an excuse...

1. Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray (The Diviners Book 2)

"For dreams too, are ghosts, desires chased in sleep, gone by morning." 

    I don't believe I was doing Book Round ups when I read the first in the newest Libba Bray series, The Diviners. Based in 1920s New York following nearly 8 young characters, all with various magical abilities. I don't want to give too much away for this second one in case you haven't read the first one, but I highly recommend this series. It can get a bit muddled following all the different character lines, but it's exciting to see how all of them intersect.
    However, I think the real star of this series is the setting. I mean...I've imagined 1920s New York. Who hasn't? It seems like an exciting place and time to be alive. Libba Bray amazingly pulls readers directly into the heart of this time period. Everything from the clothing, the language, the description of the city, the historical events that Bray works into the story line...it's absolutely spectacular. It's my favorite part of the series. Apart from Theta and Henry. Read it, and you'll figure out who they are.

2. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

     I'm trying to diversify my reading, but that's not the main reason that I picked up this classic novel. When I travel to England this summer, I'll be visiting James Herriot's home in Thirsk. Herriot's collection of books are basically retellings of his experience as a vet in the English countryside. Yes, most of the stories are about the animals he treats, but he's also an impeccable observer of people, especially the unique people of his small town.
     This does not read like a autobiography at all. Herriot recreates his young life in an entertaining way, with his witty humor and crazy stories about birthing calves and foals. Plus, my favorite part was when Herriot comforts a dying woman with the notion that her beloved dogs will follow her into Heaven. That's always been a point of contention, but now I know Mr. Herriot has my back.

3. Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

   A debut novel by a promising writer. Based in 1800s London, this story follows Audrey Rose, an unusual girl for her time who's trying to keep her broken family together after her mother's tragic death while also sneaking around to be her uncle's assistant as a medical examiner. However, when a serial killer begins viciously murdering low-class women and harvesting their organs, life becomes even more complicated for Audrey Rose and her messed up family.
     This was not my favorite book. I enjoyed the interesting story line and the strong female character of Audrey Rose. However, much of the novel was a bit melodramatic and the romantic interest seemed just a bit forced.

I'm currently reading The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr while also listening to The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.

Until Next Time,

Monday, June 5, 2017

Most Surreal Moment of My Life

I promised a blog post about about my surreal experience with Stephen Chbosky (author, screenwriter, and director of Perks of Being a Wallflower) and RJ Palacio (author of Wonder), so here we go. Strap in.

After a wonderful, long last day of Book Expo, my friend Dave Connis (Temptation of Adam drops in November), my mom, and I were sitting in the Starbucks area, just relaxing when Dave looks up and says, "Hannah, that's Stephen Chbosky and RJ Palacio." I look to my right, and there they are. Two of the most amazing middle and YA authors of our time. But Stephen isn't just an author. He's also a screenwriter and director. Maybe you've heard of a little movie called Beauty and the Beast? Yeah, he directed that.
Both of us are sitting there, obviously fangirling and obsessing over whether we should go talk to them. Stephen was on a phone call that did not sound pleasant, and we didn't want to be associated with a negative phone call. So we waited until he walked away and went up to RJ, who is much less intimidating but amazingly kind! We start throwing praises on her because as you all know (and if you don't, you should) how wonderfully amazing Wonder is. We start talking to her about our books just as Stephen comes back up and joins the conversation.
The rest is kind of a blur... Stephen offered us his four point advice to young writers, which I both wrote down and recorded. He signed my napkin with the advice and wrote "You are infinite!" Perks fans will get the reference.
BUT THEN he asked Dave and I to sign our business cards, and since my book is published, asked me to bring him a signed copy the next day. He asked me...for my book... Just let that sink in. It still hasn't sunk in for me...
All four of us took a picture together, then Stephen asked Dave and me if we were friends and handed us money. "Here, drinks are on me." Me, being the weird person that I am and knowing that some people don't like hugs, asked, "Can I give you a hug?" as my chest continued to get redder and redder.  Then RJ and Stephen went to a publishing dinner.
Dave and I just sat down, looked at each other, then at my mom, and said, "What just happened?" BEA was wonderful, but that was by far the highlight of my entire summer thus far. I mean...WHAT?
**PS I got my book to Stephen. Both he and RJ remembered me. It was amazing. I got another hug.**

All this has a moral to it. Both days of BEA, Dave let me follow him around and meet some amazing people because David Arnold did that for him. Stephen listened to us because he cares about aspiring young authors and wants us to succeed. They're paying it forward. And one day, when I'm in their positions, I plan on paying it forward to a young, emerging author--introducing them to the amazing people I plan on befriending and buying them dinner in New York City, or wherever I come across them.
A message to all the writers out there--these authors that you hold on pedestals, they were you once. They want you to write and succeed. So keep writing, keep pushing, and one day, pay it forward.

Mind Blown,

Saturday, May 6, 2017

April Book Round Up

Oops, it's already May! Sorry!! Though to be honest, these past two days have been colder in East TN than they were in November!

So, as you saw in my previous post, the month of April has been rather INSANE! No exaggeration. This means that a lot of personal reading did not happen. In fact, zero personal reading got done. But that never means I didn't read. Did I have you worried there? Ha, I thought so.

Let's talk about short stories!!

Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell
I was assigned Russell's newest short story collection as my final project in my Traditions in Short Fiction course. Well, really, I picked it based off of the title. I wanted to read Sherman Alexei, but I'm SO glad that I got stuck with Karen Russell instead. (Funny anecdote: when I raised my hand for this, my professor said, "I knew you'd pick that one." They know me so well at UTC!)
I love this story collection. I've never read something like this before, both in format and the stories themselves. I would love to be a neuron inside Karen Russell's brain because MAN the stuff she comes up with is INSANE! And I LOVE IT! She combines horror and humor in a fantastic, artful way. I wrote down every single time I laughed out loud as I was reading her stories. I promise that you've never read anything like her stories.
I obviously enjoyed the actual story "Vampires in the Lemon Grove" about these vampire lovers who have settled in a lemon grove and learned that puncturing the thick skin of a lemon is nearly as satisfying as drinking human blood. But obviously, it's going to take a dark twist. I'm just not going to tell you. I also really enjoyed and was terrified by "The Doll of Eric Mutis." I'm not really going to tell you what it's about because that would ruin the surprise horror element of it. But she also has some not as terrifying stories, such as one about random former US presidents being turned into horses and not knowing where they are or how they got there or what they did to deserve being turned into a horse. They also don't know what will happen if they jump over the fence because the others have just disappeared!
So there's a small taste of Russell's work. She's also the author of the novel Swamplandia and the short story collection St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves.

40 Short Stories: A Portable Anthology 
This was technically my textbook for this Traditions in Short Fiction class, along with a few stories not featured and articles on the art of the short story. No, I'm not recommending a textbook to you, just some of the stories that really stood out to me. If you haven't read these short stories, you should. (Also, if you don't read short stories in general, I highly suggest starting because there's some amazing work being done with them.)
1. "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin
2. "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner (and I'm not a huge Faulkner fan)
3. "A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor
4. "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" by Joyce Carol Oates (FREAKYYYY)
5. "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker (just so good)
6. "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien (you should really read the whole collection <3)
7. "Interpreter of Maladies" by Jhumpa Lahiri
8. "The Breeze" by Joshua Ferris (Warning: you are meant to be disoriented in this story)
9. "Birdsong" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

And there we go! That's basically what I read this past month (on top of all my papers and editing). Right now, I'm almost finished with Libba Bray's second installment in the Diviner's series, Lair of Dreams. SO GOOD--talk about doing research to perfectly delineate 1920s New York. Anyway, that's for next month's post.

Happy Reading (of short stories :D),

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Teacher Appreciation Week

If you didn't know that it's teacher appreciation week already, then you've been living under a rock. And if you haven't thanked your teachers yet, well, that's just rude. Time to pony up and give a big thank you...like I'm doing right now.

School was not my favorite place on earth, ever really. But it also was never the worst place. School meant friends and the classes that I liked, and band. However, it also meant the classes I didn't like, the people I tolerated, and gym. Y'all I hated gym, and I'm pretty sure gym hated me in return.

However, I was lucky to live in a district with a pretty excellent school system. It's not perfect--no school is--but I got an excellent education. My teachers cared that I was learning, and most of them didn't just teach to the test. In fact, they hated the dreaded tests. Nevertheless, they prepared me to succeed and be a well rounded person. I don't know if you realize it, but teachers shape a big part of us. Think about it, we're with them a majority of our waking hours, having them shape and mold our minds. It's bound to take some sort of effect after awhile.

I'd like to thank my amazing, caring, beautiful-hearted elementary school teachers at Fort Craig, Mrs. Owens, Mrs. Hurst, and Mrs. Dotson (P.S. Fort Craig rules forever!). Thank you to my 7th grade english teacher Mrs. Schafer, the first person outside my family I let read Ascension, which was at that time still Macy the Teenage Vampire. She still has the original binder. I obviously had to like her.

Thank you, Mr. Daugherty, for making Shakespeare cool. Thank you, Mr. Mendence, for teaching me everything I need to know about grammar and always pushing my analyses to be stronger because you knew I could. Thank you to Mrs. Russell, who I loved despite hating math and who helped me through it all. Thank you to Mrs. Wilson, who is the BEST history teacher ever! She's a queen among mortals. Thank you to Mr. Kessler who helped me catch up in statistics after my concussion. Thank you to Mrs. Romines, Mr. Hayden, Mr. Burke, Mr. Delozier, and Mr. Wilkinson for making me into a musician. Thank you Mr. Schuetz for making me a cool musician. And Jeanie Parker, even though I never took your class--you're the best there is!

I know that's not all of them, but those are the ones who have left their marks on me! And there are so many other teachers in my life that I've never had a class with but have still shaped me into who I am today! So thank you to all the educators out there for doing what you do! Keep on going, even when the going gets rough! Kids, thank your teachers.


Monday, April 24, 2017

What Have I Been Doing?

Wow, I just realized how long it has been since I've written on here. Maybe you didn't miss me, but I missed being on here! Let me tell you, April has maybe been the craziest month of my life this far! I'll just give a quick recap.

I had the pleasure of going to Nashville to attend Maggie Stiefvater and Courtney Steven's 7 Sentences Seminar, which was amazing! I swear, I learned so much in eight hours. I was amazed. We walked out of there with a story concept, character, setting, and plot. And I'm actually pretty excited by the premise! Plus, it was such an honor to get to listen to these two amazing authors that I respect and admire so much. They're also fantastic speakers!

Family Wedding in Cali! I hadn't been to California since I don't know I was ten maybe? A long time ago, and I had definitely never been to La Jolla (which is basically a super wealthy suburb of San Diego). But getting there was no piece of cake. It was actually the flight experience from Hell. There's no other way to put it. Long story short: after horrendous weather the previous day, we stood in line for six hours, from 11:30 pm to 5:30 am, to get our flight rescheduled. We even would've flown into LAX and driven to San Diego. We just wanted to get there for the wedding. But it turned out not being the worst experience. I met Chris Gallagher, a disney animator and a super awesome YA book nerd, a man who was an extra in The Office episode "Casino Night," two missionaries, and two women from New Zealand. And we did eventually make it to San Diego...just without our luggage. And our luggage did not make it back into our hands for seven more days. Thank you, Delta. FYI if you're luggage doesn't arrive, you're allowed to go shop for necessities and Delta will reimburse you. They didn't tell us that tiny detail until after we'd missed the rehearsal dinner. Again, thank you, Delta. But the wedding on the beach was absolutely beautiful, the reception was a great party; and it was so wonderful to spend time with family that I don't get to see often enough! Even if it was a blitz trip.
Also that weekend, my publisher accepted the Gold Award in New Voice: YA from the Independent Book Publisher's Association's Ben Franklin Book Award for Ascension. LIKE WHAT? You guys, this is huge. I don't think I even fully understand how huge this is. But it's huge. And it's the first trophy I've ever gotten that isn't for participation. I'm actually good at something, guys!

Well, that was Easter weekend. Nothing too much insanely awesome happened here. I spent my entire Friday applying for part time work this summer. I'm still unemployed so...yep! It's okay though. The right job will come along. PLUS I got my sunflower seeds planted, and they are already sprouting. Hopefully, my mom won't kill them this year by accidentally thinking they're weeds.

Let's just say I did a lot of driving this past weekend, folks. I made the very worthwhile drive to Nashville to see one of my favorite humans and go see Jon McLaughlin with her at The City Winery. Very good wine, even better music. Seriously, if you haven't heard his music, listen to it. Not only is he a great song writer, he's an amazing pianist. His hands were a complete blur. It was also a neat concert because it was just him, and it was celebrating the 10th anniversary of his first album's release. So he just played that album, and I'd never heard that music before.
Next day, drive to Maryville to kick of Maryville College's celebration of Katherine Paterson, the magnificent author of Bridge to Terabithia among many others! We thought she'd be at the kick off of course...but that's just a lesson to all you out there. Don't just assume based off of a flyer. Get all the facts or else you'll be disappointed when she doesn't show up.
Well, Sunday she showed up, and she was more magnificent than I ever could have imagined--cute, witty, funny, sweet, and absolutely heart breaking. I think I almost started crying four times during her talk. FOUR! If you ever get the opportunity to hear her speak, GO! I mean, people drove all the way from Nashville.
Shout out to author Brooks Benjamin for having me get a Halls cough drop wrapper signed by her. Made her laugh and probably made me stand out ;)

So that's what's been going on with me.

What's going on with you?

Friday, March 31, 2017

March Book Round Up

1. History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

        "He broke me in a way everyone should be lucky to be cracked open at least once." 

    I can't explain to you how beautiful this book was--told alternative from the past to the present, the story of a boy who's in love, has his heart broken and spins into chaos after his first love dies. After Griffin's ex-boyfriend Theo moves to California for college and finds himself a new boyfriend, nearly a reflection of Griffin, he spirals into chaos. Not only has he left his boyfriend, but also his best friend. When Theo drowns in the ocean, the chaos that has been Griffin's life turns into a black hole, especially when Theo's boyfriend comes to the funeral and stays with Theo's family, basically replacing Griffin in every aspect of Theo life. Now as he searches through the past, he has to piece together his future and who he is.
     This is Adam Silvera's most recent release and the first of his that I've read, and it was absolutely beautiful. I devoured it. With some of the authors I've read, like Leigh Bardugo, I met Adam before I read his books. He spoke at Yallfest and was so inspirational and interesting to listen to. He's definitely one to keep on your list.

2. Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan

    I was really excited about this book, and the world she created is pretty interesting. However, the plot was really predictable. I was very intrigued by the main character Luna. In a world of darkness, this girl, the hidden princess living in a tower, is blind. How do you survive in that kind of world without sight? But she does, and it's impressive. But the rest of her character falls flat. She's a little bit self righteous and a little bit predictable. Fowler is a lovable, slightly more complex character but again is predictable. Less so than everything else. 
    Jordan threw a huge plot twist in at the very end, which I must admit left me reeling, however I don't think I'll continue on to the second book. 

3. Vampires in the Lemon Grove & Other Short Stories by Karen Russell

"There is a loneliness that must be particular to monsters--
the feeling that each is the only child of a species." 

     So I read short stories all the time. Obviously, I'm an english major, and it's what we do as creative writing majors. However, I've never actually read a full short story collection. Technically, this is assigned reading for my final project in Traditions in Short Fiction. When I raised my hand to coincidentally take this collection, my professor said, "I knew you'd choose this one." Ha-ha! And I'm really loving it! Russell is ironic, weird, unique, and awesome!! She makes all of the unusual stuff she writes about sound completely normal while also keeping the weirdness of it. Then she throws these sentences in that are just...woah!

Up next, Saturday by Ian McEwan!

Happy Book Week!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Breaking Down Barriers: Middle Grade Fiction Panel

This past Saturday, my all-majors creative writing club Chattanooga Writer's Society, organized middle grade fiction panel with the amazing authors Brooks Benjamin and Andrew Maraniss. These two men have written fantastic books both dealing with social stigmas and barriers, though they are quite different styles.

My Seventh Grade Life in Tights by Brooks Benjamin is a fun fiction story about Dillon, a football playing, wanna-be dancer with some sick ninja moves. Where some characters in M7GLiT are confident in who they are, Dillon is always questioning, always wondering what other people thing, and always judging himself. I'm not going to tell you the rest. Go read it :)
Strong Inside by Andrew Maraniss is a biography of Perry Wallace, the first African American basketball player in the South Eastern Conference. This biography explores all of the racism and hate that Perry experienced as he made this life-changing decision. Maraniss condensed is biography down to a 40,000 word young reader edition so that children can be inspired by this amazing man's courage, faith, and dedication.

Unfortunately, our turnout for this awesome event was minimal, and I just can't understand this. We have an amazing jewel at Star Line books. She brings in authors at least once a week for discussions and signings. She has a wide variety of book selections, yet people still don't come. I cannot stress enough how beneficial it is to go to literary events in your town. If you are a writer, this is called literary citizenship--supporting people in your community. If your a reader, coming out and supporting these authors keeps them going, keeps them writing books for you!

Plus, this is an amazing opportunity for all of us. If we go to conferences or book festivals, one on one time with authors is highly unlikely. Stand in line, sign a book, and move on. But signings at bookstores gives you time to ask questions, talk to the authors about your passions and aspirations, and just being around people that you admire. This is also a great way to discover new authors to read. If I hadn't decided to go to Brooks's book visit to Star Line last fall, I never would've met this awesome teacher/author who I wish I'd had as a teacher and he wouldn't have come back to do this panel for my organization.

You might show up expecting to get your book signed and walk out with a new friend. Authors are normal people. For the most part, we really like other people. That's who we write about (yes, I do pay attention to what you say to me *insert evil grin here*). PLUS, you're supporting your local bookstore. I know not all towns have local bookstores, but most have some within driving distance. Let me tell you, bookstore owners love their patrons. And I love bookstores. What kind of world would it be if we didn't have indie bookstores? Not a world I want to be in.

So go out, support your favorite authors, meet new ones, and keep our indie bookstores going! Thanks to Brooks, Andrew, Chattanooga Writer's Society, and Star Line Books for another amazing, fun panel! Can't wait for next semester's.

Until I tell you about the books I read this month,

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

It Takes a Village

I'm not talking about raising a child, though that is true, yes. What I'm saying is--it takes a village to publish a book. A lot people give full credit to the author, and while I smile and say, "Thank you!" I always think about how I wouldn't be here today without my amazing publishing village!

As many of you might have seen, Ascension has been shortlisted for the Independent Book Publisher Association's Ben Franklin Book Award in New Voice: YA. This is maybe the most spectacular thing to ever happen. A Ben Franklin is the top book award in the independent publishing world. I mean, this is huge, guys. I never in a million years would have dreamed that I'd actually be able to say that or get to put an award sticker on my book. But I can, and I will!

Everyone is congratulating me, and I'm so very appreciative of all the support. Now it's my turn to say thank you to my village!

To my publisher, the most amazing, independent, brilliant, surprising, talented woman I have ever had the pleasure of knowing--thank you for seeing something in me and my book and moving us forward.

To my editor, who thinks so very differently from me yet seems to completely get my writing, my characters, and story--thank you for pushing me to think differently, work hard, and never settle.

To the Head Elf, the most kick-butt, do-all, hilarious woman--thank you for being the biggest cheerleader, flying all the way out to little Maryville for the book launch, and pushing this book down everyone's throats :)

To my graphic designer, who I converted to be a vampire fan after just 10 pages -- thank you for wanting to read more than 10 pages and for designing a perfect, beautiful cover and layout for my story.

To my copy editor, who went above and beyond, who read for more than just comma errors--thank you for those 17 pages of notes to fix. I resented it then. I treasure it now.

To my first reader, who may be more attached to this book who I am, who knew Ascension when it was Macy the Teenage Vampire -- there aren't enough thank you's in the world for helping me to shape Ascension in your basement for those 6 years.

To my parents, the ones who always support me, encourage me, cry with me when Ascension gets an award, sell books out of the trunks of their cars or at business meetings...simply, thank you.

And thanks to all of you for reading Ascension, bringing it to life, supporting it and me and this team. Where would I be without all of you?

Look for the official results of the IBPA Ben Franklin Award April 7th!!

Keeping you posted,

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Spring Break in Boston!

Woohoo!! Travel time again! It feels like forever since I’ve been to a new place when really it’s been less than a year. But I guess that’s a long time for me haha. So Friday afternoon, I flew to Boston to visit my cousin and my sister from another mister.
I don’t really want to talk about Friday. You know how it’s possible for everything to go wrong when it comes to flying? Well, that was yesterday, except, thank the Lord, they didn’t lose my bag. Though I think it would’ve taken an effort to lose my bag since I was sitting in the Newark airport for three hours waiting on a flight that was supposed to load right after I got there. Anyway, let’s just say that I didn’t touch ground until 2 in the morning.
I saw so much this weekend (JUST 2 DAYS), I’ll bullet point this trip for you lovely readers J
·      Central Square:
o   Breakfast at Veggie Galaxy
o   H-Mart – huge Asian market with restaurants within
o   Graffiti Alley – found a wall to match my jacket
·      Beacon Hill
o   Saw the original bar where Cheers was set. If you haven’t watched it, you should. It’s great.
o   Made the mistake of walking along the Charles River where we were almost blown in by the viciously cold winds.
o   Walked past Boston Common and the Public Gardens
·      Newberry
o   This is where all the primo shopping is at. We went to a really cool shop called the Fairy Store, which was misleadingly a completely Harry Potter shop.
o   Amorino – THE BEST ICE CREAM/GELATO EVER! They shape it like a rose and have gelato macarons that are melt in your mouth amazing.
o   Trident Bookstore – also a cafĂ©, old feel, creaky floors, wide variety, lots of cool side items, looked like fantastic food!
·      Theatre District:
o   Dinner at Sip which had great sushi. Man, I haven’t had sushi in so long. Missed it!
·      Financial District:
o   The Black Rose: If you’re looking for a traditional Boston bar, this is the place to go. Great, fun atmosphere!
·      Allston:
o   Allston Diner for breakfast – great hometown restaurant with cute kitchen accessories. They whistle from the kitchen when the food’s ready.
·      Brookline:
o   Coolidge Corner
§  Brookline Book Smith: Fantastic YA section, open floor plan, TONS of side items. They also told me that they love indie authors. So, they get an A+ in my book. They’re also pet friendly
·      Copley Square:
o   Boston Public Library founded in 1630, absolutely spectacular. Has a Harry Potter-esque in some areas. It’s very modern in others. I had to take a panorama picture to get the full image with their motto.
o   Trinity Church – built in the 1700s. Have absolutely gorgeous stained glass. Individual and guided tours. Students had a $5 self guided tour. They had beautiful pipe organs and handmade kneeling images.
o   Max Brenner – restaurant + chocolatier. OH MY GOS. We had a churro fondue platter and Italian cream hot chocolate with dark chocolate in what they call “hug mugs”
·      The Prudential Center:
o   Mario Batali’s Eataly – a monster store of fresh Italian ingredients split into sections. So overwhelming and fantastic. You can even get fresh pasta, and they have meals in the building too.
o   Copley Shopping Center - the designer stores that I shouldn’t even be allowed to touch haha
·      We walked through Back Bay and Tremont
·      China Town – small, just a coupe blocks, huge welcome arch.
·      One of the oldest carousels, funded by Tiffany & Co.
·      Kennedy Greenway has art exhibits right now. A neat wall graphic, giraffe statue, light display, a little free library. Plus, I got hugged by a golden retriever. Fantastic.
·      The North End -  aka the Italian district
o   Dinner at La Famiglia – family sized meals. So leftovers for days. I ate my leftovers on the train for lunch.
o   Bova’s Baker – get the Florentine Cannoli. Oh, my good gracious. Yum.
What I learned about Boston
            *It was not planned well, but the public transit is pretty comprehensive and laid out.
            *You’re not a true Bostonian unless you drink Iced Dunkin Donuts Coffee in the dead of winter.
            * The farther out of the city you live, the cheaper the cost of living.

I CANNOT wait to go back!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women's Day!

I'm never political in person. I'm not even political in private. I just don't consider myself a political person at all. I like people who are nice to others and that's pretty much the end of the story. However, today is international women's day. And maybe you'll say I'm being political for acknowledging this, but I find absolutely nothing wrong in acknowledging the kind, caring, brilliant, smart, strong, powerful women that have shaped who I am.

Anecdote time: So I have kind of unconventional birthdays. Like this year for instance, the ongoing joke was, "What happens when four girls, a mom, and a pastor walk into a bar?" Because that's literally what my birthday was. Well, on my 18th birthday, apart from my friends, I invited all the influential women in my life--teachers, my unofficial editor Mrs. Pam, my to-be publisher, neighbors, her friends who have all been like aunts to me. And I can tell you the impact that each one of them had on my life, but I don't want to keep you here for ten hours. 

Just as it is so important for young boys to have strong, respectable, caring male role models in their lives, it's equally as important for girls have strong female role models, not only in society but also in their personal spheres. 

The women in my life taught me to be proud and confident, to be strong and independent, to be caring and vulnerable, to cook an omelet the right way (I love breakfast). All of these women are doing what they love, influencing others in so many ways that they can't know. 

However, that's not to say I wasn't shaped by men too. My dad is everything to me. In one of my worst years, my sophomore english teacher told me that I was a good writer, encouraged me. Many other men have influenced me and encouraged me to be my best self. 

But today is about women because we rock, because we are equal, even though not all of the world understands that. God did not create as to be subservient but to serve with, to be equal and paired with. Men and women are meant to move through life together, not separate and unequal. 

Kudos to the amazing women today who are shattering glass ceilings, who are doing what they want to do with their lives for their reasons, for their happiness, for no one else. If all of you are lucky enough to have women in your lives like I have, congratulations. If you don't, it's not too late to find them. It's never too late to learn and change and grow. Again, that's what we were made to do. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February Book Round Up

Happy Fat Tuesday!! Hope you're all enjoying your last day of indulgence :)

Alright, so my reading was somewhat lacking this month. But, to be fair, it was a crazy busy month. That's no excuse, but the two books I did read were great!!

1. A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern
      So, as is normal, this has been on my shelf for about a year. I met Cammie McGovern at the 2015 Southern Festival of Books, which normally leads me to buy speaker's books if I don't know them already. [Fun Fact: her sister plays lady Cora on Downton Abbey...no, I'm not kidding :D]
       A Step Toward Falling is told from the alternating perspectives of a young girl with a mental disability, Belinda, and another girl, Emily who goes to her high school. One Friday night, these two girls are both at the football game, and when Emily passes to go back to her seat, she spots a guy sexually harassing Belinda. And she doesn't do anything. Well, she does, she goes to find a teacher, and it turns out one of the football players has the exact same reaction. Frozen in fear when we'd like to think we'd do the right thing and act. After the janitor helps Belinda and everything is taken care of, she refuses to go back to school, and her mom and grandma have no problem with that. And as a punishment, Emily and the other passive football player are made to volunteer at an afternoon group for adults with disabilities.
       This story took me a while to get into, to be honest. I was really excited to read it, but the beginning was just a little slow. I couldn't connect to Emily. However, as the story progressed and the characters started to develop, the story started to flow and move. I love the development, the different conflicts. This was a very high school, but in a great way. I think it was an accurate representation of how a high schooler in this situation might react and feel afterward. And McGovern's depiction of Belinda was beautiful and touching.

2. Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs (3rd in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children)
      It's been a couple years since I read the first two Peculiars books, though I loved them, and the movie that came out the end of last year pulled me back into the world. They did a pretty great job, though they switched the ability of the main female protagonist :/
      I can't really give you a synopsis of this book because it would make no sense if you haven't read the first books. So...go back and read the first books! You'll get to learn about a world of peculiar children and adults with all sorts of unique abilities living in protected time loops that have them repeat the same day over and over again so that they never age and are protected from the normals. The really unique part is that Riggs has included photographs to show off his peculiars and the worlds they live--both creepy and awesome! It's really an intriguing read.
       Again, it took me a long time to get back into this series, but I think that's more because I haven't been in the world for so long. After I'd read about 50 pages, I was fully invested again. There's a dry, morbid humor to this novel, on top of young love challenged by the fact that Emma has been sixteen for hundreds of years and Jacob is really only 16. The innate goodness of humanity is challenged, as well as our perception of looks. It's true, looks can deceive. What we might have considered to be horrid monsters for the first two books might actually be okay creatures under the correct instruction. (read the books and you'll understand).
       All that I have left in this series is the Tales of the Peculiars, which was a book that Riggs created as a history book inside the series, then he actually wrote it for our pleasure reading. Pretty neat extension of the series, if you ask me.

Next Up: History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

Reading anything good?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Best Readers

Before I actually say what I want to say, I have to just mush about this amazing weather that (at least East TN) we're having today. But on top of that, both of my classes were cancelled today, so here I am, sitting at my favorite coffee shop with a yummy cup of coffee, getting ready to edit--my weekend has begun!! I have been one of the loudest voices in the I-hate-this-unseasonal-weather-it-should-be-cold, but I think I'm coming around. I know I'll regret that statement come TN June, early July, but right now I'll just savor it.

SO...readers! Readers are what make us authors. Our writing makes us writers, but without readers, we'd be selling to no one. And I have to tell you, I have the most amazing readers! I met my first fan at my book launch here in Chattanooga. She'd read and reread Ascension before the launch, was there before I got to the store, and stayed the entire time, showing over her extremely well-loved copy. She made my day/week/month and made me feel like a bona fide author for the first time since publication.  She fits into the age range that Ascension is essentially geared toward.

Then, there's my 90-year-old Swiss friend who, upon discovering that I'd written a book, said she must have it in her lovely accent. And she read it so quickly!! And guess what? A 90 year old Swiss woman, who has never read a vampire book, LOVED Ascension. I'm not bragging, I swear. I think that's just the coolest thing ever.

Upon returning back to school after Christmas, I ran into the head of the Creative Writing department, who had bought my book for her nephew for Christmas. She made my day when she told me that A) He was quite irate at the ending (mwahaha) and B) said it was my favorite book of the year! She told me to take this as a huge compliment because he's a very avid reader. This was a big moment for me because it told me that Ascension would not just be liked by girls, but guys too! Woohoo!

And the most recent reader story I have may be the funniest. So though I am a career woman now (scoff, I'm still a student), I still babysit occasionally for a family friend here in Chattanooga. Their daughter Evie is about the most perfect angel child I have ever met or had the pleasure of babysitting in my entire long life of babysitting children, though I have had some great ones. But Evie came with a group of her close friends to my Chattanooga book launch, and though she's only in 3rd grade, she devoured Ascension and again LOVED IT! A third grader loved my book. Like, what is life? She bombarded me with questions when I came through the front door and showed me a book that she was working on. And when it came time for bed, she said to me, "You know what would be cool, Miss Hannah? If you read your book to me." Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I read Ascension as a bedtime story. It was a fun, happy part, however fleeting those moments are in my book. But she loved it, and it was definitely one of the most memorable Ascension moments for me.

All this is to say that, readers, we writers pay attention to you, treasure you ,need you. You make our day when you buy our books and fall into the worlds we've created. Whenever I start to think about any negative feedback I've gotten, I'll just think about these amazing readers, their dedication and love for reading and for our characters.

Happy Almost Mardi Gras!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Hardest Part of My Job

Last Friday, I visited Coulter Grove Intermediate School in Maryville, talking to the 6th and 7th grade classes. In total, that was close to speaking to 400 students. 400!

I like to think that I have my spiel down pat now--I introduce myself and my book, tell them a little bit about my story of starting Ascension at age 12 and the journey from there, read an excerpt from the prologue to peak their interest, then talk about believing in your dreams and making them happen, and end with questions. I have it down, can basically do it in my sleep now. I like to think that maybe they walk away from my talks thinking, "Hey, that author is a pretty cool lady!"

I've had some awesome moments at my school visits over the past five months. My first visit, right when I walked into the classroom, a girl raised her hand and said, "She's really pretty!" At the middle school career day, we had so many people come up to the table telling us that they were writing a book or wanted to be a writer. At the other intermediate school, kids asked so many questions that we ran out of time and a horde approached me afterward.

Most of the questions I get at school visits are the basics--"what's your favorite book?" "How do you write better?" "Do your character names have meaning?" "Is your book going to be made into a movie?"

I have instant answers to these questions. Then at this past school visit, apart from the other fantastic questions the students had, one boy asked me, "What's the hardest part of your job?" This question shocked me and also made me smile. So far, the only people that have referred to my writing as my job are me, my publishing team, and my mom. Not my friends. Not my students. So I guess I just made me smile to hear that. But I also knew my response: "Talking to you guys." The writing is not so hard, though it can get frustrating. Editing can be heart breaking or tedious. But this part, selling yourself, seeing yourself as a product that needs to be pitched, a public figure, is so difficult. Now, I'm not just talking to my friends or family. I'm imparting "wisdom" on kids who I hope will eventually read my book.

Plus, speaking to that many people is just exhausting. I got in the car afterward and slumped into my seat, totally ready for a nap.

But despite the nerves that rush through my body, make my hands shake imperceptibly, I'm beginning to love talking to students. They always have great questions, and it's so encouraging to hear all these students with writing aspirations. Even if they aren't interested in my book, I hope that they hear me when I talk about believing in themselves first, that they are the ones who are going to make their dreams come true. I'm living proof of it.

But then, there are the moments that I'll always remember, like a 7th grade boy coming up to me after my talk and asking me to sign his shirt then hearing him on the way out, "Dude, she signed my shirt!" I think I reached a new level of ultra cool at that point.

Until My Next Thought,

Sunday, February 5, 2017

21 Baby!!

It's weird to think that I started my semi-consistent blog posts this time last year with notes of what I'd learned by 20. And now it's a whole year later, and I'm 21. And it's amazing to think about all of the things that have happened in the past year and thinking about everything that's to come in the future.

I guess I've learned a few more things in the past year :) I've learned that I don't need to have a million + 1 friends. I'm really satisfied with having a small group of close friends who are kind, caring, funny, and adventurous. And I'm lucky that I'm able to keep up relationships over long distances and still be super close. That's amazing to me.

I've learned that going with the flow is the key to success. If you are so stuck in your plans, your ways, disappointment will constantly be the name of the game. The road to a final published copy of Ascension was a definite roller coaster of changed dates, late edits, plot holes, and all sorts of things. And I was very blessed to have my superwoman mother, my fantastic editor, and my indescribable publisher/mentor who taught me to be flexible. That's how you succeed not only in the book world, but also life in general.

I've also realized the importance of taking time for yourself. Even if you're an extrovert, you still need time to destress from the stress of work and people and school and just society. I used to feel guilty for being alone and not spending all my time with my friends. Don't get me wrong, putting effort into your friendships is so important. My friends are invaluable to me. They make my life so much fun and are helping me get through this craziness called college. But I need alone time. I need to read books, jam out to music, or just lay down on my bed for awhile and let the stress seep out of my pores.

I used to think I was a pretty good person, but over the past few months, I've realized that there's a lot to improve about myself. And thinking about all I want to change is super overwhelming and stressful. But now, I'm taking it one day at a time--complaining less, trying to smile at people everyday so they know I'm not a grump, texting friends I haven't talked to in awhile just to check in. One day at a time.

Right now, at a time when my future is pretty ambiguous, I'm trying to stay in the day. And today is my birthday! And guess what? Because I love celebrating stuff, I'm gonna celebrate all week long! I mean, you only turn 21 once, right?

One more year older,

Monday, January 30, 2017

January Book Round Up

I've decided to start a new monthly post this year, beginning today, where I round up all the books I read that month instead of randomly telling you what I think about the absolutely outstanding books that I read. Some months might have more material than others (keep in mind, folks, I'm a junior in college), but I think this is going to be fun! It'll be a way to keep up with my own reading apart from the journal I keep. So here we go: January Book Round up!

1. Pax by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Jon Klassen
      First off, woah, talk about heart wrenching. A boy separated from his pet fox Pax during a time of war. Except Peter knows that they are not meant to be separated, and in order to be with Pax, this young boy begins hiking through the woods, trying to retrace his trail back to Pax, and overcoming horrible struggles.
      This story is unique in the fact that it's told from the alternating perspectives of Peter AND Pax, with the fox's POV standing out completely, mixing in the feelings that we imagine our pets to have along with the natural instincts of a fox.
      This book definitely pulls at the heartstrings for any animal lover, though I challenge anyone to get through this book without grabbing at their chest at least once.

2. Dark Tides by Jennifer Donnely (3rd in the Waterfire Saga)
        I read the first two books of this series a year ago and was really intrigued by the world that Donnely created, especially because mermaid stories aren't quite as popular as I might wish for them to be (The Tale of Emily Windsnap was one of my favorite books when I was younger). However, something about this third book was lacking. I don't know if there were too many characters to keep up with, but I just could not be pulled through the entirety of the story.
        However, I know that Donnely has a retelling of Beauty and the Beast coming out, and because that is the story of my heart, I'm definitely going to give it a read!

3. Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey
        My sister from another mister sent me this book for Christmas, and since I am becoming more open toward creative nonfiction, I was not opposed to reading it, especially since I identify with that title. It was very interesting, thought provoking, and she backed up her claim of finding feminism in Christianity with Biblical evidence that I can go back to. She did give a lot of personal anecdotes, which were interesting, but I'd have liked a little more discussion of the actual topic.
        Sarah Bessey also has a blog, which apparently discusses most of what she has in her book, if you are interested in reading some of her work.
       Overall, I was glad I read this book. It made me question my own beliefs in a meaningful way and gave evidence to how I believe my God actually respects all human life.

4. The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd

"True friends turn a bad day into something wonderful faster than a pancake flip." 

         HOLLA for an awesomely charming middle grade fiction that I devoured. I mean, I love middle grade anyway. But Natalie Lloyd just like stepped up the cuteness/seriousness game with this book. It's based in a fictional town in the mountains of Tennessee (whoop whoop!) and is filled with fantastical magic. The narrator, Emma, is spunky, faithful, loyal, and all around adorable. Though she is a confidently mature kiddo, she is self conscious of the scar from her cleft lip, but I appreciate the nod to diversity of all kinds, the movement that allows every child to see themselves in literature.
         This is an absolute must read. I do not care how old you are. Read it with your kid or the kid you babysit if you're embarrassed to read it yourself (which you shouldn't be because middle grade rocks and carries weight no matter how old you are). You might also check out A Snicker of Magic, if you like this book.

5. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

"I would come for you. And if I couldn't' walk, I'd crawl to you." 

        Y'all. Y'all. Y'all. I know I've talked about Leigh on here before, but Y'all. If you haven't listened to me yet and read something of hers, you have no idea how deprived your life is.
        Crooked Kingdom is the second installment of the Six of Crows Duology (so, tear that it's over), and it's placed in the same world as the Grisha Trilogy, with some overlapping character appearances. This is a magical high fantasy novel that reflects our own world, but with a more antiquated sense. Bardugo deals with real world issues, such as politics, racism, bigotry, rape, human trafficking in beautiful, heartbreaking, tasteful ways. Her characters are full, rich, three-dimensional humans that will ensnare any reader. The way she builds backstory makes me want to dive into this book and literally never come out. I'm not kidding.
         Yes, it's a vicious world, but I love the people in it. I want to be their friends. Really, I want to be Leigh Bardugo's friend because she is my writing idol. Ask me about the first time I met her some other time. But seriously, read this book.
          She is writing a Wonder Woman: Warbringer book, which comes out this August (so pumped), and I just saw that she's releasing a collection of short stories! Woohoo!!

Next up: A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern (real life sister to Lady Cora from Downton Abbey)

What are you reading?

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews!!!

It's here! It's actually here! And it's wonderful!!

I have been waiting for months for Ascension's review from Kirkus to be published. I was informed that it been read and reviewed near the beginning of December, but we made the executive decision to wait to have it published until January. So I had to sit there, knowing that it was reviewed, that it could be horrible, that they hated it, that they ripped it apart for a month and a half! A wait like that can make a person go mad. Which it almost did.

BUT IT'S HERE AND IT'S WONDERFUL! "...visit to New Orleans. Rials' tale is an exciting and fast-paced YA paranormal romance with an intriguing plot, well-drawn setting, and solid character development." WOAH BABY! Such a huge compliment from the biggest, most well-known, oldest book reviewer in the country that every library and bookstore looks at. This feels like we're hitting the big times, folks, and I couldn't be more star struck or humbled or honored. Check out the full review here

People are actually liking my words, my story that I bled over for eight years of my life, and I just can't believe it. Thank you all so much for all your wonderful support!

Those of you who have burned through Ascension will be happy to know that the second installment is with my fantastic editor right now, and she's so excited about this new manuscript. I am anxiously awaiting my edits and revisions to be completed so that we can get the next book out to you as soon as possible.

On a side note, I am so very impressed by the show of support during the Women's Marches that have happened all over the country--actually all over the world today. Feminism is for everyone. Feminism is about equality. God made us all equal, it says so in the bible. No one is less than. And today has been so inspiring. Thanks to everyone who stands up for what they believe in, no matter your vote.

But again...KIRKUS!!!!!

Until something else cool happens,

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Time to Read Diverse

I've been thinking about this a lot, mulling it over basically since YALLfest where a majority if not all of the panels discussed this in some form or fashion. Read Diverse. Write Diverse. We need more diverse writers so that children who are not of the majority can see themselves in books, connect, and know that they are not alone.
What I've been struggling with since then is how I, as a southern white woman raised in a loving home, can do anything to help this movement. I do have diverse characters in the Cheyenne Lane trilogy (as you will come to see), but they are not the focus of the story. I don't feel that I have the right to tell the story of a black child experiencing racism, or a Muslim child experiencing persecution, or a gay child just realize who they are. It would be my worst nightmare to misrepresent someone's life and their story who might try to connect with these characters.
So what do I do? What do we as white readers and writers do to spur this movement forward? We be informed; WE read diverse and uplift the amazing diverse writers that have come into the YA sphere. We put these books in our bookstores and libraries so that they may fall into the hands of a child who needs to hear that story.
The job of YA authors has become so much more than just telling stories. With the digital age, the realm of connection, we know our readers. We hear their stories, and understand their pain. We feel an obligation not only to these readers, but to our culture, to represent it accurately. The world is not filled with white, middle-upper class girls and boys. We are a race of many colors, with many troubles that connect because we are humans. All of us.
I definitely didn't know this was going to be part of the job when I first had the dream of becoming an author, but I'm going to do my best to Listen, Learn, Read, and Write to the best of my ability.

If you're interested in learning more about the diversity in movement in YA and children's literature, please visit We Need Diverse Books and Multicultural Children's Book Day.

Here's a list of YA authors and books spreading diversity into our reading:

  • Renee Ahdieh: The Wrath and the Dawn
  • Leigh Bardugo: The Grisha Trilogy & The Six of Crows Duology
  • Melissa de la Cruz: Something in Between
  • David Leviathan: Boy Meets Boy
  • Julie Murphy: Dumplin' and Ramona Blue (coming in 2017)
  • Jason Reynolds: Ghost, As Brave as You,  All American Boys, among others
  • Gabby Rivera: Juliet Takes a Breath 
  • Adam Silvera: More Happy Than Not, History is All You Left Me, & They Both Die at the End
  • Sabaa Tahir: Ember in the Ashes & A Torch Against the Night
  • Nicola Yoon: Everything, Everything & The Sun is Also a Star

And this is just a few of many to start with. I haven't read every book on this list. But I have met all except one of these authors, and they are all fantastic, wonderful, caring people.

Keep reading, y'all!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

It's A New Year!

Welcome to the new year folks! I'm so excited to see what 2017 has in store; it's surely going to be awesome.
Yes, 2016 was a rollercoaster of a year, but those highs were absolutely fantastic. It was a year of firsts. On midnight in May of 2016, I was sent the choices for my book cover. Yes, it was basically midnight. I learned that the choices I make at midnight are not always the best choices. I think more clearly in the morning.
My first friend ever got married this summer, and I had the honor of being in the wedding. I heard Coldplay for the first (and mostly likely last) time. I have to say, that was the best concert I've ever been to, despite the hour delay due to a horrendous thunderstorm that lit a car on fire. That's an inconsequential detail.
My appendix came out surprisingly at the end of the month. And minutes before I was rolled into surgery, my publisher delivered my published, printed, beautiful books to my hospital room. Yes, I cried. Then, when I was on the pain pills in the recovery room, I told my nurses to feel my book and made them all come back to my room.
I started my junior year of college (halfway done!), and then a week later, I hosted my book launch party. 300 people from my hometown (and some friends even travelled!) came to support me and this dream that I've had for the past eight years. It was an amazing night that moved as a total blur, and I can't believe it finally happened.
Over the fall, I had three school visits that were fantastic. The students had excellent questions and were all very attentive.
I had 5 book signings in three months that were all super successful. AND the best part of the semester--Ascension got an award! An actual award. First place for the Royal Dragonfly Award. Yes, I cried. A lot. There were definitely tears.
I drank a lot of coffee and tea, ate some delicious food, went to Charleston, Canada, Chicago, and Asheville, read a lot of books.

So obviously--a pretty spectacular year! I can't complain much about anything.

What are the highlights of your 2016?