Tuesday, January 5, 2016

All the What Ifs by Angela Lynn - A Book Review

I picked up a book written by an online friend recently. Her name is Angela Lynn and I think we met on Twitter back in 2012. Honestly, I'm not really sure when we "met", but at some point we connected and stayed connected so I consider her a friend. She released her first indie novel in December and since it was the holidays and I had some extra time on my hands, I thought I would give it a try. I'm going to admit right now that I went in with low expectations. First, because I don't usually read young adult fiction, and second, because there are a lot of books out there now that are not ready to be published. But this particular friend had been very supportive of my own work, and whenever a writer friend who's been kind to me releases a book of their own with no publisher to back them and has the courage to put themselves out there for all their friends and family and the world to judge, I try to do what I can to support them. Because I remember what that felt like. And it was scary as hell.

I picked up her book, All the What Ifs, a few days ago and was totally caught off guard. Right away, I cared about the main character. I cared about her struggles, her fears, whether or not she was going to be able to escape the situation she was in. I wanted her to win. I needed her to win. It's been a while since I was so absorbed in a book that I could not stop thinking about it when I had to put it down to do other things. In my mind, that is the mark of true talent in commercial fiction. Everything else in writing can be taught, but the ability to pull a reader into a story, to get them to turn the page, to get them to care, is what really matters. If you have me, as a reader, thinking about your character after I put that book down, you have done your job. You have succeeded. But that is not why I am writing this post.

I'm writing this post because I think I finally understand young adult fiction, or at least the romance part of it. Young adult love stories represent that first uncomplicated love where anything is possible. It brings you back, as a reader, to that time in your life when you had no fears--about love, at least. I write adult romance. I write stories about men and women in their late twenties and early thirties who have already loved and lost, who have been heartbroken and wounded by love. That is a very different story to tell. When you have been wounded by love, you can never see it the same way as you could when you were a teenager. It will never be that easy, that simple, that fearless again.

Reading this book made me want to love again, fearlessly, as if I were seventeen and the boy of my dreams had just pulled me into his arms for the first time, and the only thing in the world that mattered was the two of us. What would it be like to love like that again? To be that free of all the wounds and the heartbreaks and the fears? What would it be like to trust again, like a seventeen-year-old girl with her first love? I don't know... But suddenly it seems like the most important thing in the world to find my way back to that place. Thank you, Angela Lynn, for writing a book that made me feel so deeply and remember so well a time in my life when I was free of my wounds. When I was free of my fear. If I do nothing else in 2016, I want to try to find that girl again. And if I do, I will do everything in my power to reclaim her.

What if...we could be fearless in love again?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Welcome Back Moody Weather Writing Days

I love living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in the fall. I love the dusky purple mists that cling to the chopped cornfields before sunrise. I love the pink sunsets that light up the skies at night, mirrored on the glassy surfaces of the coves. I love sitting on the dock at the end of the day, listening to the acorns plop into the water.

I love watching the monarchs flap their fire-colored wings over the marshes. I love watching the rows of impossibly tall sunflowers stretch toward the fading sunlight. I love the sound of the first flocks of Canada geese arriving, their calls filling the crisp autumn air.

I live in a town at the end of a thin finger of land, almost completely surrounded by water. There are several marinas, a beautiful waterfront park, and a ferry that runs several times a day, connecting us to another tiny town across the river. There are public benches nestled between private houses at the end of every block where you can sit and soak up the view.

All around this tiny town, gardens are bursting with riotous, end-of-summer blooms. Overgrown moon vines and morning glories crawl over picket fences. Climbing roses snake up the sides of tool sheds. Mums and pansies grace almost every front porch and window box—the final splash of color before the dark, barren months of winter settle in.

I used to dread winter—those long cold months that forced everyone inside. But I have recently developed a surprising fondness for winter. I actually look forward to it now. I actually think I might need it.

Last year, at this time, I was driving cross-country, heading back to Maryland from San Diego, where I had spent a year soaking in the ocean, beaches, sunshine, surfers, and margaritas. But amidst all that fun in the sun, something strange happened...my creativity died.

People often ask me what inspires me to write. I think a lot of things inspire me—talking to people, watching movies, reading books, traveling, living life—but I never realized how much inspiration I drew from my environment. From nature. From the subtle day to day shifts in the trees and the plants and the flowers. I never realized how much I needed weather. How much I needed rain. How much I needed seasons. How much I needed change.

The more time I spent in San Diego, the harder it was for me to focus. When every day was beautiful, it was impossible to stay inside. It was impossible to get anything done. I felt like I needed to be outside, having fun, making new friends. I felt like I needed to be playing in the ocean, riding my bike, learning to surf.

Not sitting at a desk, hunkered over a computer, forcing words onto the page. Not curled up on the couch in my apartment, editing the chapters I’d written the day before. Not laying in bed in my pajamas until noon, researching professions and real-life situations on the Internet to make my scenes feel more authentic.

Writing is a solitary endeavor. To finish a book, I have to spend LONG stretches of time alone, inside, in front of my computer.  Which is why I think I need winter. I need rainy days. I need dark moody days that give me an excuse to stay inside. They make me feel justified, a little less crazy. Because everybody else is inside, too.

I think Stephen King might be onto something living up there in that cold, dark state of Maine. I’ve toyed with the idea of renting a cottage up there for a year, just to see how much writing I could get done. But, then again, those are some seriously long winters. And I fear my stories might turn a bit dark… :)

It’s all about balance. So, for now, I’ll happily sink into autumn and let its cozy arms wrap around me as the storyline of Wind Chime Summer continues to unfold. I’ll take walks around my pretty town. I’ll watch the parade of sailboats cruise up and down the channels. I’ll wave to the watermen behind the wheels of their workboats. I’ll catch the yellow leaves in my hands as they fall from the branches of the trees, knowing that winter is right around the corner. And when that dark curtain closes in and everyone disappears into their homes and shut the doors, I will be snuggled up under a blanket in my pajamas writing. And I won’t feel badly about it at all.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Few Words on Writing...

I’m sitting down to write my sixth book. You’d think it would get easier, right?

It doesn’t.

It gets harder.

People actually read my books now. A lot of people. WHICH I AM SO GRATEFUL FOR, by the way. :)

But it’s an added pressure. Because I want to please them. I want to satisfy them. I want to make them happy so they’ll KEEP reading my books. So they’ll tell all their friends about my books. So they’ll come find me on social media so that WE can be friends and chat about my books.

Of course, for any of that to happen, every new book needs to be good. Damn good. At least as good as, if not better than, the last book.

And here’s where the fear comes in…

What if I can’t write a book that’s better than the last book? What if I can’t finish on time? What if something happens in my personal life that sets me back unexpectedly? What if…? What if…? What if…?

Whenever I start a new book, I have the same fears. It helps to write them down, to face them, to stare them down in print and recognize them for what they are. Little paralyzing demons that want nothing more than to kill my creativity.

I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately—journaling as much as story writing. Just about everything that comes into my head these days ends up on paper. I carry a notebook wherever I go in case I need to vent or if inspiration strikes at an inconvenient time, as it always seems to, like in the produce section at the grocery store.

A friend recently suggested that I carry two notebooks around: a pretty journal for all the good positive thoughts and story ideas, and a boring legal pad or basic spiral notebook for all the negative rants so I can rip those pages out and burn them each night.

While I loved this idea at first, and it worked well for about a week, I noticed that I felt nervous when I wrote in the pretty journal. Like my words had to be good enough to live up to the prettiness of the journal. Like I couldn’t just write them down without judging them first.

What if I couldn’t think of anything positive to say that day? What if I couldn’t think of any story ideas for the new book? What if I couldn’t think of anything to be thankful for? What if… What if…? What if…?

But when I wrote in the other notebookthe boring oneI found I wrote more. I wrote longer. I wrote faster. I wrote harder. There were no boundaries. No judgments. No expectations. I figured, hey, there’s a good chance I’m going to burn all this crap anyway so why not just write it down?

This is what my other notebook looks like.

There’s not even a picture of a cute puppy or a vase of flowers on the front. I chose it because it was the least expensive notebook in the school supplies section at Target that day. There’s nothing sexy about it, but I gotta say, I kind of love it.

Because, right now, to me, it holds everything.

All my thoughts. All my to-do lists. All my gratitude lists. All my horrible, negative rants. It holds all my story ideas. All the random snippets of dialogue that pop into my head during the day. It holds quotes from books I’m reading that I want to save and read again later. It holds names of songs I hear on the radio that I want to look up on iTunes later.

My friend’s two-year-old daughter even created some art in there last week. (Go wild, Audrey.)

It comes with me to town. It comes with me when I run my errands. It comes with me to the yoga studio, to my friends' houses, to the park. It even comes with me to bed at night.

I think I like this other notebook so much more because it’s honest. Because it’s a real reflection of who I am right now. And, really, aren’t we all just a rumbling, fumbling mass of positivity, negativity, confusion, hopes, dreams, joys, successes, failures, happy memories, sad memories, and regrets? Maybe the less seriously we take ourselves, the easier it will be to be honest, to be authentic, to be true.

I don’t know…

All I DO know is that this other notebook makes me feel free. It drops all the pressure, all the “specialness” that cripples my creativity and stunts my writing. It helps me forget about the task ahead—the daunting task of writing a new novel—and focus instead on writing. About anything. And everything. Every day. As much as I can.

In a few weeks, when the notebook’s full, I’ll go through it. I’ll rip out the gratitude lists and the quotes and the songs and put them in a box so I can look back one day and remember what I was doing then. I’ll burn all the negative stuff and let it go. I’ll sit down at the computer and begin transcribing all the random story ideas I came up with and, as I sort through all the madness, I’ll pray that there’s some stuff I can build on.

I’m planting seeds, folks. Some of them will sprout. Some of them will grow into something beautiful. A lot of them will die. But I’m not judging them yet. And neither is my boring, spiral notebook.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Wind Chime Wedding is available now!

I'm so excited to announce that Wind Chime Wedding, the follow-up to the USA Today bestselling and multi-award winning novel, Wind Chime Ca, is available now!

To celebrate the release of Wind Chime Wedding, I'm throwing a PARTY! Swing by the Sophie Moss Author Fan Page on Facebook and join in the fun! I'll be giving out prizes every day throughout the rest of the week. Prizes will include gift cards to Amazon, signed paperbacks, ebooks, handmade wind chimes, and a secret grand prize that I'll announce on July 4th!

I would also like to invite you to visit my new online home at sophiemossauthor.com, where you'll find the most up-to-date information on upcoming releases (including audiobooks), the complete collection of Wind Chime Café recipes, and a place to submit your own recipes.

Thank you all so much for your support and for giving me the chance to do what I love. I hope you enjoy Colin and Becca's story as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Wind Chime Wedding is Available Now for Pre-order!

Wind Chime Wedding is available now for pre-order!

Official Release Date: June 30th, 2015

Second-grade teacher, Becca Haddaway, is weeks away from walking down the aisle with her high school sweetheart when she learns that the Heron Island Elementary School is about to be shut down. In the midst of a whirlwind of wedding planning, she launches into a last-ditch effort to save it. But the one man who can help her is determined to make her question every decision she has ever made--including the man she's about to marry.

Former Navy SEAL and son of the current Maryland governor, Colin Foley, is finally starting to feel whole again after losing his leg on a career-ending deployment in Afghanistan. After struggling for months to figure out what to do with his post-military life, he's found a new mission--opening a rehab center for wounded veterans on the peaceful Chesapeake Bay island. All he needs now is a woman to share his new life with...and he knows exactly who he wants. With a little help from the island's magical wind chimes, can Colin convince Becca to change her mind before it's too late?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Wind Chime Café Audiobook is Available Now!

Happy New Year! I'm super excited to share that Wind Chime Café is now available as an audiobook! Hollis McCarthy did an amazing job narrating this story. I can't wait for you to hear how she brings all the characters of Heron Island to life. :)

I'm still hard at work on Wind Chime Wedding. Becca and Colin's story is coming along great, and I'm tentatively planning to release it this spring. As soon as I have a firm date, I'll post the news everywhere. Thanks so much for your patience while I give this book the time it needs to really shine.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the audiobook version of Wind Chime Café. When you get a chance to listen, I'd love to hear what you think!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Wind Chime Café is a Multi-Award Winning Novel!

It's been an exciting year for Wind Chime Café! In addition to hitting the USA Today Bestseller List in May, the first story in my new contemporary romance series is now a multi-award winning novel!

In September, Wind Chime Café won the Gold Medal for Best Contemporary Romance in the 2014 Readers' Favorite International Book Awards.

In October, it won First Place in the 2014 International Digital Awards for Best Contemporary Romance, hosted by the Oklahoma Chapter of Romance Writers of America.

Also in October, it made the Top Five Finalist round for Best Romance in the 2014 Kindle Book Review Awards.

I am SO happy this book is resonating with readers the way I hoped it would. I love every book I've ever written, but this story holds a very special place in my heart. It is set in a small town similar to the one I grew up in on the Chesapeake Bay, and being able to bring this place and this community to life and have so many people receive it so well means the world to me. Thank you.

I have entered Wind Chime Café in a few more contests, so cross your fingers that the scores keep coming our way! In the meantime, I'm still working hard on Wind Chime Wedding. It's coming along really well, and I promise you're going to LOVE Becca and Colin's story as much as you loved Will and Annie's. Right now, I'm aiming to release Wind Chime Wedding in early 2015. As soon as I have a firm date, I'll let you know. :)