Friday Five: It's the Final Countdown!

Okay, loyal blog readers: this is it. HOW IT FEELS TO FLY comes out in four days! 

How am I supposed to focus on anything else?? Nonetheless, I'll try to come up with a Friday Five that isn't all about me, me, me... ;) 

1) I've read some really great books lately. On Saturday, I blazed through Caela Carter's new YA, TUMBLING. It takes place during the Olympic gymnastics trials, and follows five girls whose fate will be sealed by two days of intense competition. Grace wants to be the perfect gymnast, but she always seems to come in second to her friend Leigh—whose parents push her to have a life that doesn't revolve around gymnastics. Wilhelmina wants a come-from-behind win, while Camille wants to walk away but fears disappointing everyone who's invested in her. And Monica is the girl no one notices—until she starts having the meet of her life. This book has so much power and emotion. If you're a sports fan, you'll love this story. But it's also for anyone who's a fan of girls dreaming big and kicking butt. (I can't wait to talk more about TUMBLING and the themes it shares with HOW IT FEELS TO FLY at my, Caela's, and Jennifer Castle's shared book launch on June 21 at Books of Wonder!) 

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2) Another spectacular recent read: Neal Shusterman's CHALLENGER DEEP. It's no surprise that this book won last year's National Book Award for Young People's Literature—it's a gripping, raw, beautiful, and harrowing depiction of a teenager's descent into mental illness. Caden Bosch is a sophomore when his mind starts to fill with strange thoughts and beliefs that eventually take over. These early chapters are interspersed with Caden as a crew member on a ship traveling to Challenger Deep in the Marianas Trench, the deepest place on earth. As Caden's reality slips further and further away, the sea journey becomes more and more interwoven with his struggle. I don't want to spoil how it all fits together, but I will say that it's stunningly done. To read CHALLENGER DEEP is to get a tiny taste of the havoc schizophrenia wreaks on the mind. I was blown away. 

3) I'm almost at the halfway point of my current manuscript revision! Onward and upward. 

4) Hm. Had some really good ice cream this week. Thanks, Blue Marble!

5) HOW IT FEELS TO FLY comes out on Tuesday! Have you preordered? (If so, don't forget to fill out THIS FORM in order to claim your preorder prize!) Are you coming to see me at one of my upcoming EVENTS? Are you available to give me a hug and calm me down? I'd be so very grateful... :) 

What's new with you? 

~Kathryn 

Friday Five: Holy Heat Wave, Batman!

Well—summer is here! We went from a chilly and gray mid-May to 80+ degrees the past couple days. I'm not complaining too much, except that, well, our apartment is a sauna. Time to put in those window air conditioners... 

Here's the Friday Five: 

1) Another positive review for HOW IT FEELS TO FLY! This one's from Booklist: "Holmes’ look at anxiety feels wonderfully authentic, and readers will recognize, and sympathize with, the pressure Sam feels from family and friends. Filtering these issues through the lens of an athletic endeavor gives this added appeal." Yay! 

2) I finally feel like I'm hitting my stride with the revision of my next YA manuscript! It took me a while to find my way in, which definitely sometimes happens but was pretty discouraging. Hopefully it will be smooth(ish) sailing from here on out, no matter how long it takes.

3) Three-day weekend! Not only that—a three-day weekend with nice weather! Granted, as a freelancer, taking Monday off is my own choice rather than a luxury, but...three-day weekend!

4) I think all of our shows (aside from Game of Thrones and Orphan Black) ended this week. While this season of Arrow wasn't my favorite, I thought The Flash went out strong—and I'm especially excited to see where that ending twist takes season 3. Thoughts? 

5) Related to the above comment on the heat wave—I have just found perhaps the only cool spot in the apartment (sitting on the floor next to an open window), and I plan to stay here for some time. Hopefully it's conducive to some amazing writing/revising! 

How was your week?

~Kathryn  

Friday Five: I Think I'm Getting a Cold Edition

I think I'm getting a cold. I really, really don't want to be sick. But oh, the sinus headache...

Let's talk about good things, instead! 

1) I really enjoyed last weekend's production of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. Gillian Anderson was amazing, but so was the rest of the cast. The staging was so innovative—the set rotated and seating was in the round, which meant that our view of things was constantly changing. Geek-out moment: after the show, my friend and I were able to wave at Gillian in her Uber by the stage door, and she totally waved back. 

2) I'm slowly but surely making my way into my current book revision. It's detailed character work rather than plot work, which takes longer—and consequently feels like you've accomplished less at the end of each writing session than when you can say "I wrote 1000 new words!" or whatever. But I will crack these characters! I will! 

3) We finally had nice weather again this week. On Wednesday, I walked to and from my new yoga studio (~20 minutes one way), and it was really lovely to be outside in the middle of the day. Sun shining, but not too hot. Birds chirping. Trees and flowers in bloom. The walk really put me in the yoga mindset. Plus, walking is great for thinking about the above revision problems! 

4) Agents of SHIELD got really good this season, huh. Tuesday's season finale was awesome! 

5) My preorder giveaway is up and running! If you've preordered HOW IT FEELS TO FLY or plan to do so before June 13, and you want some exclusive book-themed goodies, go HERE to sign up. Your swag will go in the mail as soon as the book hits shelves! 

That's all for now. I've got writing to do... 

Have a great weekend! 

~Kathryn 

Friday Five: My Books Arrived, My Books Arrived!

Yesterday, I received the first finished hardcovers for HOW IT FEELS TO FLY, as well as finished paperback editions of THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND. I'm still floating from seeing my books all lined up for their Instagram photo. So that seems like a good place to start! 

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1) There really is nothing like holding the finished product of a thing you worked so, so hard on for so, so long. I had to feel the finish on the jacket, and then check out the naked spine, and flip through the pages.... And then I found one of my absolute favorite bits: the page where it says "Also by Kathryn Holmes: The Distance Between Lost and Found." (Meanwhile, inside the DISTANCE paperback: "Also by Kathryn Holmes: How It Feels to Fly.") I am officially a two-book author! Ahhh! 

(NB: HOW IT FEELS TO FLY still comes out June 14. This is just an early copy from the printer!)

2) Last night, I got to attend the debut launch party for one of my New School MFA friends, Mia Garcia. Her book, EVEN IF THE SKY FALLS, came out on Tuesday, and I can't wait to read it! It's a YA romance set in New Orleans, and the action takes place in 24 hours...with a big storm on the horizon. Congratulations, Mia! 

3) Do you like YA thrillers? You'll love Amanda Panitch's second book, NEVER MISSING, NEVER FOUND, which releases in late June. I got to read an ARC this week, and it kept me up far too late on Tuesday night. I couldn't stop turning pages until I found out how it ended! The book is about Scarlett, who was kidnapped and held hostage for several years as a child before escaping. Now a teen, she just wants a normal life and a normal summer job. But when one of her new amusement park coworkers reminds her a bit too much of the girl she was held captive with all those years ago, the past threatens to swallow Scarlett all over again. Plus, another park employee has gone missing. Is it all connected? This book is fast-paced and twisty, and I loved it. You will too. 

4) Y'all, y'all, y'all: tomorrow (tomorrow!) I get to see Gillian Anderson in A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn. I am SO EXCITED. 

5) I managed to make a particularly good pot of coffee this morning. Sometimes, it's the little things. *sips* 

What's good with you this week? 

~Kathryn 

Friday Five: Catching Up After a Few Weeks Off...

You may have noticed there was no Friday Five last week—and no Friday Five the week before that. Mea culpa! Real Life kicked me in the pants. Plus, my husband and I managed to visit both of our families in a 10-day span. That part wasn't so bad. In fact, it leads me right into...

 Justin took this picture of me with nephews #3, #4, and #5 piled on my lap! All the snuggles. *heart-eyes*

Justin took this picture of me with nephews #3, #4, and #5 piled on my lap! All the snuggles. *heart-eyes*

1) Family time. We have five *adorable* nephews, two on his side of the family and three on mine, and it was a pleasure to see them all over the last two weeks! (The almost-nine-year-old would probably bristle at being called "adorable" on the Internet, but so be it.) Justin and I got to be super-uncle and super-aunt. We took the almost-six-year-old to the Air and Space Museum at Dulles Airport. We (along with my sister, the other super-aunt) shuttled the three-year-old and the almost-two-year-old to a fast-food playspace for lunch and running around, when my sister-in-law needed them out of the house. We played catch and pushed rope swings and watched various guys play on various mobile devices. It was a blast. 

2) When Real Life cuts in and I don't have time to write for a while, I always come back to it intimidated. I feel like maybe I'll have forgotten how to make stories. This is silly, I know. But nonetheless, it was a huge relief to sit down yesterday morning and write a tentative new first chapter for the magical Middle-Grade I'm starting to rewrite. Maybe I haven't forgotten, after all.

3) I've got a few events officially planned to promote HOW IT FEELS TO FLY this summer! Keep an eye on my EVENTS page for more details... 

4) Speaking of HOW IT FEELS TO FLY, there's been some great news on that front. First, I just found out that the book has sold to a French publisher, Hugo & CIE, who will translate it and produce a French edition (sometime within the next 18 months or so). Magnifique! Also, the first reviews are trickling in, and they're positive, which is such a relief. School Library Journal said FLY is "An empowering story for middle and high school readers searching for acceptance from themselves as well as others" and recommended it for summer reading. Yay! 

5) Captain America: Civil War tonight! #TeamCap

What's new with you? 

~Kathryn 

Friday Five: Friends and Rereads...and a Manuscript Milestone

It's time once again for the Friday Five! 

1) It's been Reread Week for me. I powered through two YA favorites, Jandy Nelson's THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE and Heather Demetrios's I'LL MEET YOU THERE, before picking up THE ROYAL WE by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. I devour new-to-me stories, but there's something so lovely about returning to a book you've read before and *know* will do exactly what you need it to do in the moment you pick it up. 

2) On Wednesday, I got to catch up with two friends I haven't seen in far too long. One had a baby five months ago (and so I got some baby snuggles as well!) and the other opened her own dance studio a year ago and has been swallowed up by that. I'm so glad we found time to hang out. Sometimes, it's all about making time—especially when, like me, you're the one that *doesn't* have the amazing excuse for being a recluse...

3) Yesterday, I got to the end of the current draft of my new manuscript! Since finishing the (admittedly abridged) first draft in January, I've added about 28,000 words, reorganized the whole middle, straightened out the emotional arc a bit... Yes, there's still quite a ways to go before it's anything resembling goodbut finishing a draft gets it one step closer. :) 

4) I'm planning book launch and promo stuff for HOW IT FEELS TO FLY. Fun fun fun, coming your way in just a couple months! 

5) We booked tickets to visit my family in Tennessee at the end of the month. Can't wait. 

What are you happy about this week? 

~Kathryn 

Friday Five: "Fiona" and Other Diversions

Another chilly spring afternoon, another late-in-the-day Friday Five! 

1) My sprained ankle is finally feeling *almost* back to 100%. I'm still babying it a little, because this is that delicate period when it's so easy to overdo things and prolong the recovery, but wow it feels good to not be limping around! 

2) On that note, I just got back from a new yoga class, and it's really nice to be moving at almost-full-out capacity. Plus, I haven't wheel-posed (that's a backbend) in a while, and I was still able to push up today without too much of a struggle. So, yay! 

3) Good news for a loved one. Can't talk about it yet, but I'm smiling. 

4) I had a lovely meeting with my agent yesterday where we chatted about my next couple projects. Hopefully you'll get to hear more about them soon, but for the moment: I am writing—a lot—and I am excited. 

5) This week's reading: another sophomore release for a Fearless Fifteener friend! Meredith Moore's FIONA is a modern-gothic thriller-romance set in Scotland. It's got castles and family secrets and bumps in the night and, of course, an eligible bachelor who's drawn to our heroine despite having many reasons not to succumb to her charms. Oh...the plot? Fiona takes a job as an au pair for the daughter of her mother's childhood best friend. Fiona's mom was mentally ill, and took her life several years ago, so Fiona is desperate to connect with any family or family friends she has left. But all is not as it seems—especially when Fiona starts hearing and seeing strange things in the castle and on the grounds. Is she following in her mother's footsteps—or is someone trying to make her think she's going crazy? Who would do that, and why? This is a lush page-turner, and it's out now. 

What's good in your world this week? 

~Kathryn 

Friday Five: Short 'n' Sweet

I bet you thought I forgot to do my Friday Five. Well...I didn't! But with so many other things going on this week, it did get pushed to Friday afternoon. Better late than never, right? 

1) The YA Scavenger Hunt is happening now! Are you on my blog looking for some bonus book content? Try the post below this one. Interested in joining the Hunt and potentially winning a ton of books? You can start HERE

2) This week's awesome read: THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE by Heidi Heilig. It's about a girl who lives on a time-traveling pirate ship! That's all I need to say, right? Okay, fine, here's a little more: Nix's father, the ship's captain, has been searching for a map that will bring them to Honolulu in 1868—when Nix's mother died. But if they save her mother and change the past, what happens to the life Nix has lived? This is a fascinating adventure story, as well as a wonderful meditation on the true meaning of family. Plus, the settings—from 1860s Hawaii to modern-day NYC—are so vivid and detailed. And Kashmir, Nix's charming shipmate...yeah, I liked him quite a bit. If any of this sounds intriguing to you, pick this book up! 

3) I passed 80K words on my new book. Then I promptly cut 1,000 by removing an entire scene. But still. I'm on the home stretch! I don't think it will get much longer than this, since I've already written a version of the ending. 

4) April! I'm still all about spring. Ballet flats and bright colors and flowers blooming and everyone in NYC looking substantially more cheerful now that we've all put away our winter coats and hats. It's the best. 

5) My husband informs me that his preorder of Star Wars: The Force Awakens has arrived in his iTunes. Guess what we'll be doing this weekend... 

Anything good in your world this week? 

~Kathryn 

Welcome to the Spring 2016 YA Scavenger Hunt!

It's that time again—time for someone to win a WHOLE LOT of books! Welcome to the Spring 2016 YA Scavenger Hunt. Here's what you need to know: 

Somewhere in this blog post, I've hidden an important number. Collect all of the secret numbers of the authors on TEAM ORANGE and add them up. (Don't worry—you can use a calculator!) Then, fill out the entry form HERE. People who have the correct number will be entered to win a copy of every book from TEAM ORANGE! 

The contest is open internationally. Anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by SUNDAY, APRIL 3, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

There are NINE contests going on simultaneously this time around, and you can enter one or all! Find out more about the hunt and see all of the authors participating by going to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

And now...to business! 

I'm excited to be hosting Paula Stokes, author of GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE!

Paula Stokes writes stories about flawed characters with good hearts who sometimes make bad decisions. She’s the author of several YA novels, Including Vicarious, Girl Against the Universe, Liars Inc., and The Art of Lainey. Her first new adult novel will be published in late 2016 or early 2017. Paula loves interacting with readers. Find her online at authorpaulastokes.com or on Twitter as @pstokesbooks.

About GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE

Maguire is bad luck. Horrible things happen when she's around. Like that time the rollercoaster jumped off its tracks. Or the time the house next door caught on fire. Or that time her brother, father, and uncle were all killed in a car crash—and Maguire walked away with barely a scratch.

It’s safest for Maguire to hide out in her room, where she can cause less damage and avoid meeting new people who she could hurt. But then she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star. Jordy is confident, talented, and lucky, and he’s convinced he can help Maguire break her unlucky streak. Maguire knows that the best thing she can do for Jordy is to stay away. But it turns out staying away is harder than she thought.

And here's what Paula had to say: 

Hi YASHers! I had trouble deciding on a scene to share, because as many of you know, I have over 100 pages of cut scenes from Girl Against the Universe. I ultimately decided on a deleted phone conversation between main character, Maguire, and book-boyfriend Jordy.

Maguire is completing a list of seven tasks with the help of her therapist in order to get over her fear that she’s bad luck to people around her. In the earlier draft, she told Jordy she would go out with him only after she successfully completed all of her therapy challenges. This conversation occurred between challenges #5 and #6, but there’s nothing spoilery here.

***

My phone buzzes in the center console as I pull my mom’s car into the driveway. I cut the engine and glance down at the display. It’s Jordy.

I swipe at the screen. “Hey. What’s up? I just got home.”

“Have you picked a place for our first date yet?” he asks.

“No,” I say firmly. “Because I don’t want to jinx things.”

“Are you actually worried that you’re going to fail? Or are you more scared you’re going to succeed?”

I unclick my seatbelt. “A little of both,” I admit. “I’ve never been anyone’s girlfriend, you know? I’m not sure how all of that works.”

The closer I get to finishing my therapy challenges, the more I realize that my bad luck isn’t the only thing I’d have to worry about if Jordy and I actually got together. There’s his parents and his schedule and the way he makes me feel when we’re alone. It’s intense—a lot to process. What if I’m not ready?

“It works like we hang out and have fun together. It’s that simple.”

My eyelids flutter closed as I think about the kiss we shared at Joshua Tree. It did seem simple in that moment, but since then everything feels different. “Yeah, but are there certain…expectations?”

“What do you mean?” he asks. “Like going to my tennis matches?”

“Um, I’d love to go to your matches, but I meant more like the stuff we do…when we’re alone. You have a lot more experience than I do…” My cheeks start to burn.

“Oh.” He pauses for a second. “Maguire, I’ve spent the last few years feeling pressured from all sides. I’m not going to do that to you. Besides, I’m not in any major hurry. We can do or not do whatever you want. So don’t worry, okay?”

Relief surges through me. My eyes flick open. “Wow, you seriously are a people pleaser,” I tease.

He laughs lightly. “That’s a trait you might come to really appreciate someday.”

My face goes even hotter. “Stop it. I have to go inside eventually and I think you have me set on permanent blush.”

“Are you sitting in your mom’s car, in the dark, thinking about me?”

“Maybe,” I say. “Why?”

“Because I’m just lying here in my room, in the dark, thinking about you.”

***

Paula: This conversation was cut because I revised the progression of Maguire and Jordy’s relationship, but I was sad to lose the sex-positivity and the way that Jordy reassures Maguire that he’s not going to pressure her.

I’m sharing it for YASH because I think it captures the dynamics between the two of them and shows you a bit of their chemistry. He’s a little bit pushy, but ultimately supportive and decent. She’s crazy about him, even if she spends most of the book afraid to let herself get too close.

Okay—it's Kathryn again: 

Still on the YA Scavenger Hunt? There are two things you'll need to move forward. One: My secret number—33. And two: Your next stop on the Hunt. Head to Elle Cosimano's website for more great book content and goodies! 

And don't forget that somewhere on the TEAM ORANGE hunt, you'll find a sneak peek at Chapter One of my new book, HOW IT FEELS TO FLY, which comes out June 14. To celebrate, I'm giving away five swag packs via the Rafflecopter below! Want some HOW IT FEELS TO FLY goodies? You know what to do. :) 

Happy Hunting! 

~Kathryn 

Friday Five: Can't-Miss Books from Kerry Kletter and Jeff Zentner

It's Friday again! It's been a pretty good week here—how've you been? 

Anyway, here's my Friday Five: 

1) I've (almost) made it to the end of the 30-Day Shred! (Today is Day 29, for those of you keeping count...) Four weeks ago, this exercise challenge seemed incredibly daunting. And I won't lie—it hasn't been easy, especially on the days when I had to get up early in order to fit a workout into my busy schedule. (Getting up early *and* working out...blech.) Anyway, I'm proud to say I haven't missed a day. :) 

2) Books: I read two incredible ones this week...and the authors happen to be each other's critique partners! (I also got to see both of them at the NYC Teen Author Festival last week, which was so much fun.)

Kerry Kletter's debut THE FIRST TIME SHE DROWNED is a lush, lyrical book about a girl who's trying to rebuild herself after a two-and-a-half-year stint in a mental institution. Upon release, Cassie heads straight to college, but unsurprisingly has a hard time adjusting to her new circumstances—never mind dealing with renewed attention from her mother, who's the one who checked her into the hospital against her will in the first place. Cassie's mother is magnetic and charming and self-absorbed and cruel, and Cassie is so tempted to fall back into her orbit, even as she remembers all of the abuse and neglect that led to her current fragile state. This is a heartbreaking and hopeful story, beautifully written and extremely hard to put down, not unlike the next book in this post...

 

Jeff Zentner's debut THE SERPENT KING was always going to be right up my alley, with its small-town Tennessee setting and its distinctly southern prose and sensibility. But man, did I love this book. It's about three misfits: Dill, the son of a disgraced Pentecostal snake-handling preacher; Lydia, who's Internet-famous for her fashion and lifestyle blog; and Travis, who's so obsessed with a Game of Thrones-esque fantasy book series he actually carries a staff. Their mutual outcast status brought them together, but it's senior year, and Lydia's planning to get as far away as she can for college—her top choice is NYU—while Dill feels his small life closing in around him. (Travis just wants to stay out of his drunk father's way.) Full disclosure: this book made me cry. But it also made my heart sing. It's sad and sweet and thoughtful and gut-wrenching and lovely. 

3) On the topic of my own writing: it was a fun week, because I got to write a lot of kissing! Spoiler: my first two books (THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND and HOW IT FEELS TO FLY) don't have much in the way of making out. This new project, on the other hand...there's a fair bit of smooching, at least in the chapters I've been working on lately. But don't worry—my characters won't remain in that happy kissing place for much longer...*evil laugh*

4) Husband and I are heading to Philadelphia tonight to celebrate his mom's birthday. It will be nice to see family, even if only for 24 hours! 

5) Ahh, NYC spring...

Friday Five: WIP Goals, Author Events, Music, and More

I think I jinxed us when I gushed about the weather last week. I just checked the 10-day forecast to discover that NYC is supposed to get SNOW on Sunday. It's 60 degrees right now (Thursday evening). Bah. 

But with that gripe out of the way, it's been a pretty cool week. Here's my Friday Five! 

1) I passed 75,000 words on my manuscript-in-progress! Given that the book was hovering around 55K when I wrote "The End" on the first draft in January, I'm pretty pleased with my forward momentum. Can I get to the end in the next month or so? How many more words do I need? Stay tuned... 

2) It's been a fantastic NYC Teen Author Festival so far! I went to an author event at the New York Public Library on Monday evening and another at Dixon Place last night, and participated in a group author visit with GED students yesterday morning. That presentation was definitely a highlight of the whole week. The students asked wonderful questions about writing and publishing and inspiration...and our favorite movie stars and films. I love interacting with readers! 

3) It hasn't all been book-stuff this week. I also managed to squeeze in my friend Kohli Calhoun's latest performance. She's a talented singer-songwriter who's releasing a new album this spring, and trust me—you will be hearing more about her from me once that comes out. For now, you can access a free EP on her website, which I linked to above. 

4) The sprained ankle is on the mend. Still a little sore, but nothing I can't handle. 

5) HOW IT FEELS TO FLY got its first trade review this week! This particular reviewing outlet, Kirkus, is notoriously snarky, so I'm relieved to have had two books make it through the Kirkus gauntlet unscathed. Here's a spoiler-free snippet of the review: 

"Holmes concentrates on demonstrating the benefits of therapy, dissecting Samantha’s emotions, and depicting her increasing strength in overcoming her traumas and her difficult relationship with her obsessive mother. The book winds up as almost a paean to clinical psychology, but it should resonate with driven readers and those with their own body issues."

Less than three months until HOW IT FEELS TO FLY hits bookshelves. Eek! That's a scary/good thing for another post... 

Did you have a good week? 

~Kathryn 

Friday Five: How 'Bout This Weather?

New Yorkers love to talk about the weather. Whether it's a heat wave or a Polar Vortex, we can always be counted on to gleefully complain. Except...for the first warm stretch of spring. Excuse me—I need to open all the windows in my apartment. *heart-eye emoji* 

Here's this week's Friday Five: 

1) Did I mention the weather? It's been a balmy between-50-and-75-degrees here in Brooklyn since Wednesday. I wore a skirt with bare legs yesterday. The birds are chirping. The air is comfortable and fresh. Everyone seems...happy. I know it's only March. I know that the temperature can and will drop again. Heck, it might even snow at least once more. But right now—it's perfection. 

2) I made it to Day 15 of the 30-Day Shred! And this week, it was no easy feat. On Tuesday afternoon, I stepped in a pothole and twisted my ankle. I don't think it was a bad sprain—it's already feeling significantly better—but it certainly put a crimp in my workout plans. It's hard to get your heart rate up when you can't jump around. But I stuck with the daily regimen, modifying whatever I needed to modify (i.e. holding a plank instead of doing what Jillian Michaels calls "plank jacks," jumping jacks combined with a push-up position), and hopefully next week I can dive back into cardio. 

3) I am having so much fun working on my current manuscript-in-progress. After HOW IT FEELS TO FLY, which to be honest took a lot out of me, it's such a joy to be working on a book that feels...not easy, per se, but the good kind of challenging. I'm excited to dive in each morning. I know what I need to work on and where I'm going. And I feel confident that, with time, I can make this book my best yet. 

4) I got to read another fellow Fearless Fifteener's sophomore ARC this week! I loved Jenn Marie Thorne's debut, THE WRONG SIDE OF RIGHT, so I was confident I'd also enjoy her May 2016 release, THE INSIDE OF OUT. Thorne is so good at capturing real, honest teen voices and issues. (If you missed THE WRONG SIDE OF RIGHT, about a girl who discovers she's the daughter of a presidential candidate during election season, grab it now!) In THE INSIDE OF OUT, high schooler Daisy learns that her best friend, Hannah, is gay. She decides to jump headfirst into supporting the LGBTQIA cause, but in her newfound zeal, she manages to completely co-opt the story. As the closeted-straight figurehead of a movement that goes viral and attracts tons of protestors, Daisy makes a lot of mistakes that keep the plot racing forward. This tagline from the book sums up her journey: "Every story needs a hero—sometimes it's just not you."   

5) Speaking of YA literature...next week is the NYC Teen Author Festival! I'm an attendee this year, rather than a panelist, but there are some *incredible* authors gathering for sure-to-be-amazing events. Will I see you there? 

~Kathryn 

Friday Five: Taking a Deep Breath

The absolute best thing about the past week has been the lull in my freelance work schedule. It was pretty hairy there for a month! (That's what happens when you say "yes" to just about every assignment you're offered...) So, the Friday Five has to start with: 

1) Having time to get everything done each day, without feeling freaked out or overwhelmed. Plus extra time for my current book-in-progress! I'm probably halfway through this first-draft/first-revision—it's a mix of new writing and revising—and I'm starting to sound like a broken record for how much I'm in love with this project. 

2) Next, a pat on the back: last Friday, I started the 30-Day Shred. After a cold, comfort-food-filled winter (and, frankly, a sedentary and junk-food-filled 2015), I wanted to see if I could reboot my body and rebuild my cardio endurance a bit. But here's the thing: I really don't like to exercise. I love taking dance classes and yoga classes, but the whole jogging/weights thing—not my favorite. So I am rather pumped that I've made it to Day 8 without missing a single workout, even when it was absolutely miserable. More on this next week... 

3) I've been writing on Thursday mornings with the charming and talented Lance Rubin, and yesterday, we both really enjoyed the cafe's 80s/90s classic rock Pandora station. Never mind that I was working on a very emotionally charged scene... each new tune made me smile. Phil Collins! Chicago! George Michael! Whoever it is that sings "Total Eclipse of the Heart!" It was a blast, even if the mood was all wrong for my WIP. 

4) Broadchurch season 2. Just as devastating as season 1, with the added perk of seeing the actor who plays Jarvis on Agent Carter in a *very* different context. 

5) Oh, books... I read two really lovely, inspiring books this week.

It was a pretty sure bet that I'd fall in love with Jennifer Longo's UP TO THIS POINTE. It's about a ballerina who runs away to Antarctica's McMurdo Station after realizing that her plan for her life (first up: a company contract with San Francisco Ballet) might not work out after all. The story jumps back and forth between the lead-up to Harper's fateful SFB audition and the present day at McMurdo, where she gets into Winter-Over shenanigans (there are penguins!) while also rebuilding her broken spirit. One thing I loved about this book was how unflinching it was in forcing Harper to face the facts about her future. Being passionate about something doesn't mean you're destined to find success at it—an issue I also tackle in HOW IT FEELS TO FLY—and yet having to change your life plan doesn't mean your life is over. UP TO THIS POINTE is filled with honesty and hope. 

Another sure bet: Natalie Lloyd's THE KEY TO EXTRAORDINARY. Natalie's an auto-buy for me. Her debut, A SNICKER OF MAGIC, was in my top 10 books of 2014. Her follow-up is heartfelt and heartwrenching, a winsome love song to a small mountain town and its occupants—especially protagonist Emma Pearl Casey. Every woman in Emma's family has had the Destiny Dream, and before Emma's mama passed away, she predicted that Emma would discover her destiny at a young age. The last thing Emma expects is for her dream to ask her to find buried treasure, but with the future of her Granny Blue's Boneyard Cafe on the line, she gathers her friends and goes treasure-hunting. This book has ghosts and magical flowers, laughter and music and love, and there were definitely a couple moments that made me tear up. I adored it.

What's got you smiling this week?

~Kathryn  

Friday Five: Three Memorable TV Moments, a Great Book, and WIP Progress

Without further ado—or really, without any ado at all—here are this week's five good things: 

1) As if I didn't love Agent Carter enough, Tuesday's episode had a song-and-dance dream sequence! Bonus fun fact for the dance crowd: the number was choreographed and performed by the cast of Dancing With the Stars

2) On another superhero TV show note, I was very gratified to have predicted a major twist on The Flash—Zoom's identity—a week before it was revealed. My husband sometimes gets irritated watching TV and movies with me because I'll guess what's coming next or how something will end, and (not to pat myself on the back too hard) I'm quite often right. But I write stories for a living! It's difficult not to get caught up in the nuts and bolts of the stories we're watching. (FYI, I also figured out the identity of the Winter Soldier in the second Captain America film very early on... *shrugs*) 

3) I've added almost 10,000 words to my manuscript-in-progress since the start of the year, and I am still having so much fun with this project. It also now has a working title: THE ITALIAN WORD FOR GOODBYE. Intrigued? Maybe I'll have more details to share soon...

4) I only read one new book this week: Mikaela Everett's THE UNQUIET. It's a literary science fiction YA that has been compared to Kazuo Ishiguro's NEVER LET ME GO. There are two Earths, and children from the dying planet are being trained to infiltrate their doubles' lives on the planet that's healthy and strong. The main character, Lira, ends up living her double's life—with two loving grandparents and a little sister—on an orchard in the French countryside. It's not long before she and the other "sleepers" are feeling conflicted about their role in the invasion. As much as she wants to stay strong for her cause, Lira is haunted by the innocent lives being taken. This book was eerie and unsettling and unfolded at a careful pace. The writing style definitely won't be for everyone—but I'm glad I read it. 

5) The X-Files' six-episode season ended on Monday night...on a cliffhanger. On the one hand, it wouldn't be my favorite TV show without those memorable nail-biting season finale moments. On the other, with no word about future episodes or a third movie, my immediate response was "Ahhhhh!" But I'm choosing to believe (I WANT TO BELIEVE...ha!) that this isn't the end for Mulder and Scully. If anyone deserves a happy ending, it's those two... 

That's all for this week. Anything exciting to share on your ends? 

~Kathryn 

Friday Five: Cirque du Soleil and Fearless Fifteeners and More

Do you ever have one of those weeks where you're running and running on your hamster wheel, trying not to trip and do a complete spin over the top? That was my week. (And it's still ongoing...) So here's a quick Friday Five! 

1) On Tuesday, I got to go out to Long Island to observe rehearsals for the new Cirque du Soleil show, Paramour, which is planned to open on Broadway in May. Yes, taking this quick-turnaround assignment for Dance Magazine contributed to the overall hamster-wheel sensation, but how could I turn it down? It's not every day you get to watch some of the world's best dancers and acrobats in rehearsal—or interview a Cirque du Soleil director and two choreographers. I can't wait to see the finished product in a couple months! 

2) Fellow author launch parties are the best. I missed the one I'd hoped to attend on Tuesday night (post-Cirque du Soleil stuff), but did get to go to one on Wednesday. Lauren Magaziner writes adorable, magical middle-grade books, and it was a pleasure to celebrate her sophomore novel, PILFER ACADEMY: A SCHOOL SO BAD IT'S CRIMINAL. I can't wait to read it! 

3) Remember the Fearless Fifteener ARC tours I used to post about all the time? A few of them are still running, which means I am finally catching up on some fellow debuts' books that have been on my TBR for a long time. This week, I read THE FIX by Natasha Sinel and THE ONE THING by Marci Lyn Curtis. Both books are about teens healing emotionally after difficult times. In THE FIX, Macy has been holding on to a shameful secret, but a chance conversation with a boy at a party cracks her walls and lets those memories bubble to the surface. In THE ONE THING, Maggie is barely coping after losing her sight—and her promising soccer career—six months ago, but a chance meeting with a kid she can see sets her on the path to recovery. Neither author tiptoes around the tough stuff. Check these books out for realistic and heart-wrenching situations and lots of feels. 

4) My husband and I are headed to Philadelphia tonight for a family event—my first bar mitzvah! He tells me I have no real reason to be excited, but I've never been to one before, so I can't help it. ;) (Mazel tov, David!) 

5) My HOW IT FEELS TO FLY promotional bookmarks have arrived! I'll be sharing pictures all over social media soon... 

How's your week been?

~Kathryn  

Friday Five: Anniversaries and Great New Reads and Comfort Books

It's been one of those weeks. Very *February.* Cold and gray and a little bit blah. But here are some good things! 

1) Today marks seven years since my husband and I went on our first date. I know most people don't commemorate their dating anniversary, but since ours falls so close to Valentine's Day, we always remember the date. (Plus, celebrating on the 12th means avoiding the V-Day craziness at local restaurants!) Tonight, we're doing dinner and a movie in Manhattan. Seven years ago, it was French food at a cute restaurant on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. I had a nasty cold, so we called it a night fairly early, but I was excited and hopeful to see him again—once the snot cleared! (There's more to this story about our early dating mishaps, but I'll save it for another time...) 

2) One of the best cures for the "blahs" is to pull out an old favorite book that I know will make me smile. One of my top comfort reads is Stephanie Perkins' ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, which, if you don't already know, is a sweet teen romance set at a boarding school in Paris. It never fails to make me swoon. This week, it was exactly what I needed to break out of a funk. 

3) I also finished reading Lee Kelly's A CRIMINAL MAGIC this week, and it was spectacular. (Remember the speakeasy launch party I went to last week?) If you like alternate-history fantasy, or the 1920s in general, or books about magic—or just exciting, well-written books!—definitely pick this one up. 

4) This week has been yoga boot-camp. By tomorrow afternoon, I will have taken six yoga classes (plus two dance classes) in nine days! Unfortunately, it's because my yoga studio is closing (with the intention of reopening at an as-yet-TBD location), so this is a mixed good thing/sad thing. But you can't argue with the benefits of that much yoga in such a short time. 

5) Did I mention where my husband and I are going for dinner tonight? Blue Smoke is one of my favorite BBQ places in NYC—and as a southerner, I care about the quality of my BBQ. Pulled pork, here I come! 

What's been making you happy this week? 

~Kathryn 

Friday Five: Agent Carter and The X-Files and Speakeasies and Writing Goals

Short-n-sweet, here's what's got me excited this week! 

1) We're a few episodes into the new season of Marvel's Agent Carter, and I am just so in love with it. Peggy Carter is everything: smart and stylish and sassy and able to kick so much bad-guy butt. Plus, I'm loving the second season's 1940s Los Angeles setting. 

2) The third episode of The X-Files's revival series was, indeed, amazing. It aired on Monday, and I'm still smiling about it. 

3) On Wednesday, I sent my agent sample chapters from my new work-in-progress! No matter how good you feel about a manuscript as you're working on it, it's nerve-wracking to actually put it in your agent or editor's hands, so I am patting myself on the back for taking this book's first big leap. 

4) Are you following #AuthorLifeMonth on Instagram? If you enjoy going behind the scenes with your favorite authors, definitely check out this hashtag. Hat tip to Dahlia Adler for getting the ball rolling! (Also, I posted a teaser from my new manuscript on Instagram and Twitter yesterday and got a very positive response, which felt great.) 

 Me (right) with author-buddies Kim Liggett and Marcy Beller Paul

Me (right) with author-buddies Kim Liggett and Marcy Beller Paul

5) Last night was the launch party for Lee Kelly's new book, A CRIMINAL MAGIC, set in an alternate 1920s where magic is prohibited, rather than alcohol. As if I weren't excited enough about this book, the party was held in an actual speakeasy. The doorman even made us say the password before he'd let us in. Plus, I got to hang out with a batch of author friends I haven't seen in quite a while. Shout out to Marcy Beller Paul, Kim Liggett, Lori Goldstein, Alison Cherry, Michelle Schusterman, Rebecca Behrens, and of course Lee herself for such a fun night! 

What's making you happy this week? 

~Kathryn 

Friday Five: Theater and Music and Books and More

It's been quite a week for refilling the creative well. Sometimes, being a writer means hiding out at home (aside from the occasional dance or yoga class), laser-focused on the project at hand. Other weeks involve going out and experiencing the world. This week was the latter, and it was great! Here's my Friday Five: 

1) Being a dancer in NYC means having a network of friends who are constantly doing cool shows, and on Wednesday night, I got to go to a particularly interesting production. I fell in love with Third Rail Projects' immersive theatrical take on Alice in Wonderland, Then She Fell, last year, and so when I got an invite from a friend to be a "test audience member" for TRP's new show, The Grand Paradise, as they prepared to open to the public, I jumped at the chance. The Grand Paradise is set at a tropical resort in the 1970s. You wander the space, sometimes on your own and sometimes led by performers playing the staff and guests of this magical hotel. There are crowd scenes—like a disco party where audience members join in the conga line—as well as intimate one-on-one moments and conversations with performers in secluded corners and rooms. The performances I saw (and each audience member has a different overall experience) were spectacular. If you're into immersive theater and don't mind being pushed a bit out of your comfort zone, definitely check this out. 

2) It's not just my dance network that puts on cool shows! Last night, I went with a musician friend to a concert at The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. We were there to see Lindsey Luff, and I loved her music so much I've been replaying the songs and videos on her site for the past hour. There's one soulful song in particular (from last night, but sadly not up on her website at this point) that I can't wait to add to my writing playlist...

3) This is a little more than a week old, but since last week was All About The X-Files, I didn't get a chance to mention a wonderful book I read: Erin L. Schneider's SUMMER OF SLOANE, which comes out in May. Erin's a fellow YA Buccaneer, which made me even more eager to read her debut than I would have been otherwise. This emotional book is about a girl who escapes to paradise after her boyfriend cheats on her with her best friend. In Hawaii, Sloane tries to forget about the problems she left behind in Seattle and rebuild her broken heart. She gets a little help on that front from a hot new guy, Finn. But sooner or later, she has to deal with the ways in which two of the most important people in her life have hurt her—and moving forward is never as easy as it seems. SUMMER OF SLOANE comes out on May 3, and you can learn more about it HERE

4) Oh, um, that whole X-Files revival thing I've been going on and on about on social media, and on here, and to anyone who will listen to me in person? Even with a shaky first episode, I am so in. (The second one was better, and the one that airs on Monday is supposed to be a true return to form, so...wheee!) 

5) Thanks to a fairly mild weather week, much of Saturday's blizzard snow has already melted, which makes getting around the city a heck of a lot easier. NYC's street-corner slush puddles are no joke, so not having to deal with them is truly a blessing. 

What's got you pumped this week? 

~Kathryn 

Ready to Go on a Scavenger Hunt?

The YA book blogger community is truly awesome, and so when Montana from The Book Belles (www.thebookbelles.blogspot.com) got in touch to see if I wanted to join an online scavenger hunt featuring 2016 Young Adult Contemporary titles, I said yes without hesitation!

Here's the deal: Below, you'll get exclusive interview content from author K.C. Heldwhose debut, HOLDING COURT, comes out on March 1. After you read about HOLDING COURT, you'll get a link to another author's blog, where you'll learn about another book—and so on, and so forth. Somewhere along the way, you'll come across an interview with me about HOW IT FEELS TO FLY! Each post will also have a code word hidden somewhere in it. Collect all of the code words and go HERE before end-of-day Wednesday, January 27, for a chance to win a great prize pack! 

Oh, and at the end of this post, I'll also be giving away an ARC of HOW IT FEELS TO FLY. I'd ***love*** for you to enter! 

About HOLDING COURT:

Sixteen-year-old Jules Verity knows exactly what's in store at her new job at castle-turned-dinner-theater Tudor Times. Some extra cash, wearing a fancy-pants dress, and plenty of time to secretly drool over the ever-so-tasty—and completely unavailable—Grayson Chandler. Except that it's not quite what she imagined.

For one, the costume Jules has to wear is awful. Then there's the dead body she finds that just kind of...well, disappears. Oh, and there's the small issue of Jules and her episodes of what her best friend calls "Psychic Tourette's Syndrome"—spontaneous and uncontrollable outbursts of seemingly absurd prophecies.

The only bright side? This whole dead body thing seems to have gotten Grayson's attention. Except that the more Jules investigates, the more she discovers that Grayson's interest might not be as courtly as she thought. In fact, it's starting to look suspicious...

About K.C. Held:

K.C. HELD was born and raised in California with stopovers in Honduras, Mexico, and France. Married to her high school sweetheart, and mom to two avid bookworms, she holds an MFA in costume design and has worked as a freelance costumer in opera, theater, film and television. Although she once spent a summer working in a castle, there were no dead bodies involved.

K.C. is represented by Kathleen Rushall at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. Her debut young adult novel, HOLDING COURT, will be published by Entangled Teen on March 1, 2016.

The Interview: 

1) Congrats on your debut! Is HOLDING COURT the first book you wrote, as well as being the first you published? What was your path to publication like? 

K.C.: Thank you! I wrote most of HOLDING COURT during a frenzied two week period after finally realizing it was time to break up with my first book. I wanted to write a YA mystery that combined elements from TV shows, movies, and books I love: the Stars Hollow feel of Gilmore Girls, the interconnected affect of Amélie, the impossible romance and quirky characters of Pushing Daisies, the fast-paced mix of humor and mystery in Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, and a heroine who was a whip-smart wisecracker like Buffy and Veronica Mars. I put it all in a blender, reblended it a few times, and HOLDING COURT was the result. Which makes it sound like a smoothie rather than a book, but that’s essentially how HOLDING COURT came about!

2) I love the idea of a supernatural mystery set at a period dinner theater. Did you write Tudor Times based on personal experience? If not, what's the craziest summer job you ever had? 

K.C.: I would’ve loved to have had a job at a period dinner theater! I did have a summer internship in textile conservation at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California, which was crazy awesome, and there are definitely parts of the castle in Tudor Times that were inspired by Hearst Castle. 

3) What sets your main character, Jules, apart from her peers? (I mean, aside from the whole "psychic prophesy" thing mentioned in the book's teaser...) Do you tend to write protagonists who share a lot of characteristics with teen you, or are they very different?

K.C.: While Jules’s gift is something no one else has, she’s like me, and everyone I knew as a teen, in that there’s something about herself that she desperately wishes she could change. I’m not sure what other characteristics we share besides the fact that we’re both tall people who love vintage clothing and the movie The Princess Bride. Also, as a teen I once had to dress up in the same costume Jules has to wear at her job. But the less said about that, the better. :)

4) What are you most excited about heading into your publishing debut? 

K.C.: I can’t wait to see how it feels to hold a physical copy of HOLDING COURT in my hands!

5) What are you working on next? 

K.C.: “Another mystery,” she said mysteriously.

Your next scavenger hunt stop: 

Did you find the code word hidden in this post? Hint: I put lots of asterisks around it. :)

Once you've got it, head over to author Kim Culbertson's blog: http://kimculbertson.com.  

Want to win an ARC of HOW IT FEELS TO FLY? 

Friday Five: It's All About The X-Files

There's really only one thing I want to talk about this week, because I am so hyped up about it. (And because, at the time of writing this post, I am just a bit stressed about a trip that was/is supposed to happen this weekend and that is getting majorly messed up by this Snowpocalypse business...) But by Sunday, it won't matter whether I've been to Cincinnati or not, because... 

THE X-FILES REVIVAL STARTS AIRING ON SUNDAY NIGHT! 

 Here's me, as a college freshman, when I met my X-Files friends in Washington, DC, to do nerdy X-Files things. #nerd

Here's me, as a college freshman, when I met my X-Files friends in Washington, DC, to do nerdy X-Files things. #nerd

Let's repeat that in Friday Five fashion: 

1) The X-Files revival starts airing on Sunday night! 

2) The X-Files revival starts airing on Sunday night!

3) The X-Files revival starts airing on Sunday night!

4) The X-Files revival starts airing on Sunday night!

5) The X-Files revival starts airing on Sunday night!

So here's the thing: The X-Files meant *a lot* to me in high school and college. A LOT. I was obsessed. It was my first fandom. I belonged to the official Fox message boards and logged on every single day to catch up on posts. I wrote and read tons of fanfiction. I made fellow X-Phile (i.e., someone who loves The X-Files...) Internet friends—and this was before it was cool or common to have real, honest-to-God friends who you'd never met face-to-face. I even had an entire bedroom wall dedicated to X-Files posters and photos of David Duchovny—my first celebrity crush. 

When I found out there was going to be a new short X-Files season, I decided that before it aired, I was going to rewatch every single episode of the show. It took me more than six months, but I did it! 203 episodes, plus two feature films. (And yes, there are some clunkers in there amongst the brilliance...) On Tuesday, a friend and I met to watch the series finale, so I am all caught up for Sunday—and I am PUMPED. (Not to mention that my shipper flag is flying high!) 

Hopefully, next week's Friday Five will include effusive posting about how awesome the first two revival episodes are, and how wonderful it was to spend time with Mulder and Scully again, and how excited I am for the rest of the new series. In the meantime... 

What's new with you this week? 

~Kathryn