I am long overdue on blogging! I’m still trying to figure out how to organize my presence on social media, and how to make each platform unique. I think I’m going to try a once every other week schedule. Or would you prefer monthly updates? Sound off in the comments!

There have been some exciting updates, though. First and foremost, I finished Draft 1 of Book 2!

1 month and 87,000 words later, draft one of Book 2 is finished. Off to ice wrists for a month. #amwriting

A photo posted by Roshani Chokshi (@roshanichokshi) on

I started on September 1st. I finished on October 7th. There were a lot of reasons for that insane time schedule. First, I wrote so fast for my mental state of mind. I figured that once we started getting ARCs (Advance Reader Copies; and no, they’re not ready yet! But maybe December-ish?) for THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN, I would be such a discombobulated mess of a human that I would lose the ability to draft something from scratch. I felt like I would do nothing but think about my debut out there in the world…cold…nervous as hell…nursing its perceived plot holes and scowling… The second reason was that I was completely inspired by this post by Catherynne Valente on Jeff Vandermeer’s blog.  Granted, I did not write this in a month. But I *almost* did, and that felt pretty great! It was not without its tradeoffs. There is still a lot to be fixed, and I felt like I only knew knew my characters and what they wanted in the last handful of pages. I had a lot of: REALLY. WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST TELL ME THAT AT THE BEGINNING?! (My characters are persnickety fickle toddlers.) Which is fine in a way because I got to explore all the ridiculous directions they *pondered* about going in, so that they wouldn’t feel like they missed out. The downside is that they seem wildly inconsistent. But it’s only a first draft (*this is a mantra I repeated regularly…*). And it’s given me lots of fun ideas for how to fix those issues. Other downsides include wrist pain. Oof.  Another update is that I recently had the chance to attend the Sirens Conference in Denver, Colorado this year! It was INCREDIBLE. So many brilliant writers. Awesome discussions. And, on a plus side, the bar let you take your fancy cocktails to the conference rooms. Proof:

Front row #sirens15 situation. A photo posted by s.e. smith (@sesmithwrites) on

I bought way too many books, which is fine because I can’t move for the next couple of days anyway. I’m recovering from a relatively minor knee surgery, which I’m almost thankful for because it means I get to hunker down with some amazing reads and not move. Ever. Most recently, I had the chance to read Leslye Walton’s THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER. I *adored* it! Here’s my Goodreads review.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava LavenderThe Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Could not put this book down. The language was rich and thoughtful. The storytelling was beautiful, but heartbreaking. It’s the kind of tale that has you on the edge of tears throughout the whole read. At its core, the story is hopeful. I very much enjoyed the ending. It felt fitting, and hopeful. Also, as a Great Pyrenees owner–I was SO HAPPY that these big fluffy white dogs got some attention.

View all my reviews

That’s it for now. Looking forward to some relaxing, and then plunging back into a project that has been on hiatus since March. I’m really excited about it! It’s a quiet Adult fantasy starring a stoic dream-engineer who crafts reveries in Faberge eggs and knows something is missing, and a failing muse who’s nursing a broken heart and is in need of a dream.

🙂

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As I’ve been working on Book 2 (hit the 45,000 mark the other day! Yay!), I’ve been feeding my brain with the gorgeous prose and great characters of other genres. Most recently, though, I’ve been reading romance.

Romance is one of the most popular genres, easily topping best-seller lists and notoriously lucrative. The genre is also beleaguered with critics. We’ve all heard of, or maybe even participated in, bashing some romances. We may say that it’s unfeminist. Or that the covers are ridiculous (WHY IS EVERYONE NECKING?!). Or that it’s not even a “good” story. To be fair, not all stories are great. But that doesn’t mean we should categorically dismiss an entire genre.

By it’s nature, Romance books have happy endings. Why is that such a bad thing?

Happy endings don’t preclude great writing, strong characters and prose that elicits a visceral reaction in the reader. Maybe the visceral reaction is your heart pounding to a particularly steamy scene. Maybe it’s a smile forming on your face because you’re just…happy. Happy that the characters you connected with, or perhaps are a little in love with, are HAPPY.

So, knowing that, why did I feel so awkward when I went to the Romance section of Barnes & Nobles?

Why did I feel like someone was judging me on my reading tastes and my classification as a human (ranging from Cool Cyborg Who Only Reads Kafka and Weeps Tears of Coffee and Absinthe to That Basic Girl Who Likes PSLs And Wouldn’t Know A Good Book If It Danced Naked Wearing Dobby’s Tea Cozy) was somehow in question?

Then I realized that I was asking the wrong question:

WHY DID I CARE WHAT ANYONE THOUGHT?

Why would I even invite the company or judgments of someone who didn’t even care to get to know me, and saw my reading tastes as an affront to literature rather than an admiration for the power of storytelling and universal themes. The truth is: sometimes I *do* weep tears of coffee and absinthe (…slight lie). Sometimes I really like PSLs at Starbucks, and I’ll fight through all the catastrophic damage wrecked to my name in my attempt to get it!

So. The next day when I walked into B&N (I go way too often), I headed straight for the Romance shelves. I did not stop to collect $200. I did not snatch a collection of short stories from someone with a morose-sounding last name to hold in my arms like some kind of cover-up while I scanned the shelves. I just picked up books, scanned summaries, checked Goodreads, and selected one with the hope of falling in love. (Spoiler: I did. And book beau’s name is Viscount Anthony Bridgerton. Thanks, Julia Quinn.)

I am a proud Romance fan, and I’ve got nothing to hide.

There’s some great articles in defense of the romance genre that I highly recommend you check out, if you’re interested! It will also provide snappy retorts to anyone who dares raise a condescending brow to any of your books. I’ve always imagined a fun scenario where a literary snob scoffs at one of my paperback romances and says: “What trite and light reading!” Soon after, I wallop said literary snob with the book and say: “HA! IS IT STILL LIGHT?!”

But I digress.

Articles for your perusal:

Yale Herald

Publishers Weekly

 

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BlackheartsBlackhearts by Nicole Castroman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve been craving some great historical YA and this was perfect. I finished Blackhearts in a day and I don’t think I stopped to blink. The romance was beautiful, the characterizations perfect and vivid. I really loved how the motivation wasn’t just love, but freedom and adventure and reclaiming your identity. Anne was a refreshing heroine whose bi-racial background speaks to the troubles of belonging to two worlds that don’t accept you. Edward “Teach” Drummond is an imperfect, fiercely motivated hottie. Love him, and love his character arc. The ending gave me chills. This is perfect for fans of Belle. Highly recommend! Go get it in 2016!

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This weekend I had the chance to attend Dragon*Con in Atlanta. Despite being an Atlanta native, this was my first time attending the conference. And wow. It did not disappoint. Dragon*Con, which spans a number of hotels in downtown Atlanta, was like stepping into a completely different world. At one point, I felt like I was wandering through the Otherworld.

One of the best things about the conference was attending the panels. Dragon*Con has a great YA track, and I had the chance to listen to authors like Melissa Grey (THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT), E.C. Meyers (THE SILENCE OF SIX), Cindy Pon (SERPENTINE), Shaun David Hutchinson (THE FIVE STAGES OF ANDREW BRAWLEY) and Naomi Novik (UPROOTED). Hearing authors discuss their writing process or what character building and magic systems in their worlds mean to them was very eye-opening. It was also a good lesson in proving that not everyone’s path or method to success is the same, and that’s fine! Some of the writers on the panel would revise by retyping their books from start to finish. Some needed to have everything planned out before they started writing and they would end up with a hundred-page outline. Some didn’t plan the book out at all, they would let it lead them wherever it wanted to go.

We do what we must to tell the story we want.

But now the weekend is done and it’s time for me to get back to Book 2. On the advice of this fabulous post by Catherynne Valente, I’m attempting to write this book in 30 days. Last week, I had 8k words. Today, I’m at 22k. This seems like a huge leap of progress, but if you could have seen me these past couple of days, I have been pulling teeth trying to find words to slap on the page. One of the things I’m finding most helpful, however, is not going back and rereading/revising. For this draft, I’m only aiming for forward progression. There are places I can already see that are stalling. There are huge paragraphs filled with food description simply because I couldn’t think of something better that might fit…but it’s a tiny victory all the same.

Wish me luck!

Before I go…I wanted to link this great review of my short story “THE VISHAKANYA’S CHOICE” by Fantasy Book Critic. There’s a mini Q&A if you’d like to read, including links to the story (which is free!).

Anddd, lastly, I have glimpsed something super super awesome relating to THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN. Get ready for a fun reveal in October! 🙂

 

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I also got to hug Scott Adsitt (actor in 30 Rock, one of my favorite shows, and the voice of BAYMAX from BIG HERO 6!).

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I’m lucky enough to be part of the Sweet 16s, a community for all the 2016 debut YA/MG authors. One of the best things about being part of that community is that I get to read people’s books before anyone else! (MWAHAHA)

Here is the Goodreads review I wrote for Emily Henry’s THE LOVE THAT SPLIT THE WORLD. Which you can (and should!) pre-order now!
The Love That Split the WorldThe Love That Split the World by Emily Henry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I finished it last night and this is what I wrote on Twitter. I mean every word I say:

It took me awhile to read Emily Henry’s THE LOVE THAT SPLIT THE WORLD, not because it wasn’t immersive but because the book know its a Southern drawl, wry and drawn out, burning. Like honey bourbon and summer thunderstorms the size of myths. But when it sank its claws in me, I was ruined. Henry’s debut wrung out my soul. It was sophisticated and depply felt. It was witty and I aspire to Natalie and Megan’s conversations because that level of friendship is sublime. Henry writes about love in a way that’s visceral, tactile. So do I think you’ll like it? I don’t know. Do you like nectar-rich prose? Wit and myth and legends? Do you want to feel like Time is something you can grab a fistful of? Do you want to read a book like a slow dance and lightning? Then YES. Read it. Weep on it. Order now.

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I graduated from Emory in 2013. Around that time, I had been using my Facebook account since…2006? I think? I was a little attached. Maybe too attached. Graduating around that time (or one could say, really, at any time) was incredibly stressful.

I had *zero* job prospects. My major was 14th century British literature, so no one was unrolling a red carpet and dangling a hefty salary at me. I had entertained thoughts of law school, but only haphazardly. I was ish-preparing for the LSAT. Most of the time I was just moping around my apartment, lamenting the general passage of time and trying my best to study and NOT work on the manuscript that later became THE STAR TOUCHED QUEEN.

Facebook didn’t feel healthy to me. It was a haven of constant comparison. It was a personal hell for anyone who felt vaguely insecure. It was pretty much the worst.

So, after graduation, I swore it off! And I felt so much happier. There was no more need to check notifications. I wasn’t constantly wondering how many “likes” my latest carefully-crafted pithy comment had garnered. Plus, I didn’t feel like I had anything worth sharing with the world. What was I going to brag about? My mediocre LSAT practice test scores? That’s a winner…

But now, I do have something to share!

Yesterday, I decided to set up my author page. The thing is, this requires activating (or making) a personal profile. And so I reactivated mine after sooooooo long and it was SO WEIRD. I nearly hyperventilated from the crash course down memory lane. Half the people listed as “friends” I couldn’t even remember! Then I had to wade through all the notifications “welcoming me back” (I was in Atlanta the whole time! It’s not like I was resurrected from the dead!)

I am in awe of people who get things done with Facebook. Less than 24 hours of having a profile, and I’m already like: “HAVE I MISSED SOMETHING.” Ah. Ignorance really is bliss.

All of this is to say, I have a Facebook author page.

Despite feeling, sometimes, like I’m on all the social media ever and in all the places at once, it’s also AMAZING because it lets me find and connect with readers when I may not have had that opportunity. THAT is something worth wading through all the notifications for!

I want to hear your thoughts. I want you to feel part of the world I’m trying so hard to bring to life. In the upcoming months, there’s going to be some wonderful things on the Facebook page, so keep it in mind 🙂

And…if you’re like me and occasionally feel overwhelmed from social media, free yourself from the anxiety and just step away from the screens. I think it’s so relaxing to bask in something else. Something *still* that lets you savor your own thoughts and never share them with anyone but you.

This art always brings me peace of mind. I hope you find them calming and inspiring too! (Dale Chihuly pieces from the Seattle exhibition)

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Apologies for abstaining from blogging this past week. We took a family vacation to the magical Pacific Northwest. There’s not a lot I can say about this part of the U.S. that hasn’t been said, sung, immortalized in poetry, nitpicked over and filmed, but I’ll add my own thoughts anyway!

The PNW is like rediscovering a fairytale that was wedged between two pages in a book you love. It’s new and familiar, distant and hidden. In Portland, Bluestar Donuts were ambrosia and the farmer’s market was a compressed Shire. The air smelled like salt and roses and coffee. We spent time hiking around Multnomah Falls, exploring Hood River and cowering before the Columbia River Gorge. After that, we traveled to Seattle. I must confess I was less fond of Seattle, but I attribute this to a recurring knee injury which makes me hiss at steep inclines and Seattle is a scooped out city.

All of this got me in the mood for reading, and writing! It was a great time to rest my fingers and just *stare* and *think* and give myself the kind of breathing room that neuroticism doesn’t usually permit. While traveling, I read and thought of two great books that I highly recommend. They’re both very PNW-y in their own right and if you haven’t visited, these books will capture those moods perfectly:

1. UPROOTED by Naomi Novik. There has been so much hype about this and still this book blew my mind. I described it to a friend as a mix of Diana Wynne Jones’ HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE meets the humor of Terry Pratchett and the prickly love interests of My Fair Lady.

2. ALL OUR PRETTY SONGS by Sarah McCarry. This book will not be what you thought it was. Even when you read the jacket, the reviews, the thousands of awards this book has swept up and even the first chapter. This is unlike anything I’ve read. It’s intended to skewer your heart and you must let it.

Happy Reading!

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