In Like A Lion, Out Like A Lamb: A March Update

Hooray, a blog post where it hasn’t been a million months since I last posted!

I was actually super inspired by my good friend Erin who I had recently talked to about how random we’ve become at blogging—and when I saw that she made a super awesome update post, I thought, “WHY NOT GET BACK INTO IT AS WELL?”

A lot has been happening since my last post! A bunch of snowstorms (yay snow days!), many bouts of sickness/general not-well-being (boo sick times!), and a whoooooole lot of writing and reading (yay creative well-filling!). To keep things light, here are some things that have been keeping me happy lately:


As I’ve mentioned before, but I FINISHED a draft of Phantom Fantasy!!! Last October, I finally crossed that finish line of first drafting and came out with a wild 140k-word monster of a book, but it’s MY wild 140k-word monster of a book ❤ Since then, I’ve been furiously working away at it when I can, and I’m super excited for how it’s shaping up. Here’s the aesthetic I made for it to give a glimpse into the madness my muse is currently working with:

BUT, in even happier writing news that I’m still so, so thrilled about, MY WONDERFUL CP AND FRIEND ERIN SIGNED WITH AN AGENT!!!!!!!! This industry is filled with SO many downs (statistically, that’s just a fact), but the greatest ups for me have been growing with my friends and seeing them shine, hit their deadlines, make progress, reach those milestones, and sharing in all the joys (big or small) that make this work so worth it. Erin, you’re a friend who’s been there since the very beginning, and I’m soooo immensely proud of you for all that you’ve accomplished. Can’t wait to see you and this story make so many waves and break all the hearts ❤


This year, I wanted to really work on balancing reading and writing a lot more since I tend to fall into very bad workaholic/writing-cave-dweller habits—and lately, I have actually been keeping up with this promise! It’s all thanks to my commute to work, as well as those long work hours that allow me to listen to audio books while I knock out some oh-so-exciting spreadsheets and grids at my desk.

Here’s a glimpse of some stuff I’ve recently finished:

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I read this when it first came out years ago, but decided to reread it by listening to the audio book since it’s one of the main inspirations behind Phantom Book! And let me just tell you, it is a BEAUTIFULLY read audio book. I’d forgotten how much I truly loved this story, but the narration was just pure amazingness. There were times when I was literally choking back tears at my desk because the emotions were just so raw. I’m still not over it.

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander (as well as Chris Colderly and Marjory Wentworth), illustrated by Ekua Holmes. Part of my job is actually to read some of my company’s books (I KNOW, THE DREAM!) and review their quality, so I’ve been able to get ahead in my Goodreads challenge very nicely because of it. This picture book of poems was such a lovely, calming read with magnificent art, and to plug it even more, it recently won a Coretta Scott King Book Award!

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. Recently listened to this one on audio and it BLEW my mind! I rarely read novels that are written in verse, and this one did not disappoint. With a pitch like “A Christmas Carol meets Boyz N the Hood,” how can it? I absolutely recommend listening to the audio because the author narrates it, so it makes the whole experience even more meaningful and emotionally-charged.

An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard. This book also blew me away! My CP Erin had recommended this to me because she had a feeling I would enjoy it, and BOY DID I. It revolves around families of magicians partaking in a dangerous competition that defines their society and power, featuring a bold, confident magician at the forefront who I was ALL about. I absolutely tore through this page-turner on my commutes.


Along with a balance of reading and writing, I also wanted to get back into TV since I feel like I always fall super behind that. Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of Brooklyn Nine-Nine which is HILARIOUS, fell into a deep rabbit hole because of Hulu’s original series Harlots, and have recently started watching Fresh Off the Boat with my parents (who find it highly amusing and super relatable).

And just yesterday, I also watched the movie Love, Simon with my brother and it was just an emotionally-charged DELIGHT. I read the book when it first came out and adored it, and after watching the moving, I am long overdue for a reread. My friend Akshaya and I were gushing about this last night since she’d also just seen it, and we both agreed that it captured the spirit of the book so well (while also drowning the viewer in a whirlpool of feels). I absolutely recommend everyone to watch it!

That’s about it regarding updates for me! Hoping everyone has been enjoying the year so far 🙂


It’s Levi-OH-sa

I just got back from Vegas/SLC a couple days ago, and I’m FINALLY starting to feel like a human again.



But hey, I think the amount of post-con exhaustion is very telling about the amount of fun one had at said con, and I for sure had TONS of it at Leviosa Con! Once more, I got to hang out with my glorious CPs (you’d think at this point we’d be sick of each other, but huge nahhh), meet extremely wonderful people, and actually speak (and moderate!) at panels for the first time. Also, food. There was a lot of incredible food, too.


Brunch for days


Taking advantage of the poor HP cut-outs. Sorry Snape.


Pantsing vs. Plotting panel! The brilliant term “plotypus” may have been coined here


Draco Mouse-foy #snapchatfiltersgivemelife


The hugest pancakes + bottomless mimosas = HEAVEN


My buddy Erin and me, CO-Gs for life


All the lovely agents on the How to Pitch panel!

What was perhaps the most rewarding part of this con had to be finally meeting my agent for the first time in person! Weirdly enough, having that meeting was probably akin to online daters meeting for the first time and having that flood of first date jitters. Oh no, I’m not online where charisma can be edited and inserted! What if I say something awkward? What if I look nothing like my picture and that freaks them out? What if we actually do not mesh well in person? What if, what if, what if . . .

Suffice to say, those worries were SO ridiculous. Thao really is as wonderful in person as she is online, and after spending time with her and seeing her rock it out on panels, I can’t even properly say how lucky I feel to have her as my agent warrior. Also, I may or may not have squealed too hard when she said that she totally pictured Roan from The 100 as one of my characters!!!


Heart eyes heart eyes heart eyes (source)

Not only was meeting Thao wonderful, but also being on panel with her—along with a whole crew of equally amazing, super accomplished people. I have to say, for my first time on panels, I had MAJOR imposter syndrome beforehand. Definitely from the uncertainty that my words wouldn’t carry much weight since I still see myself as a more or less a newb in this industry. But you know what, what eased me soon enough was the fact that EVERYONE has something to say, and every stage—wherever you’re in—carries truths and values that people are always eager to listen to.

After that epiphany, I felt like I could finally breathe on panel. I spoke about what it meant to read YA and how diversity impacts my writing. There may have been a tangent about my previous fanfiction days (THANKS ERIN). I also moderated a panel on rejection, and the stories which came from that were so inspiring. Needless to say, my fear of public speaking is definitely diminishing, and I have nothing but thanks for ALL the people I spoke with for being the best and most encouraging panelists ever, and gratitude for this amazing opportunity!


Adults Reading YA!


Babies First Panel: An Axie and Janella saga


Moderating the Dealing with Rejection panel meeeeep


Diversity in YA Lit Panel was AMAZING


My bud Katelyn to the right also moderated like SUCH a boss


Axie being a scifi queen on her panel!

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Panel Survivors

Nothing was better than having my Pitch Wars co-mentor Axie by my side (attached at the hip, more precisely), and to be able to hang with all my CPs Erin, Amanda, Maddy, and Akshaya. In fact, being able to hang with ALL the lovely people at this con in general was the biggest highlight of all. Since we all stayed at the same resort, each day was pretty much like living in a small world where you saw everyone all the time and had the perfect opportunities to just mingle, catch up on life stuff, and gush about all the bookish things.


Dat sunset tho


I think we all can agree that Susan Dennard is SUCH an amazing person. Seriously.


Cult Love


Me and my agent sister Roshani Chokshi, aka quite possibly the KINDEST human being ever

Leviosa passed by in such a whirlwind, it still doesn’t feel real that we crammed in so much in so little time. But soon enough, we had to say goodbye to the lovely resort, and were back on the road to SLC aka a glorious 6-hour road trip with Erin and Maddy. Aka 6 hours of randomness, Disney sing-alongs, and gorgeous, epic scenery.




Who else is getting Thunder Mountain feels?!

Post-Leviosa was a blur of more amazing food (priorities, because clearly I’m a very hungry person), hiking adventures, bookstore shenanigans, puppy cuddling, puzzle piecing, and just more fun times with CPs before it was time to return to the East Coast for what I suspect will be a very long time. Because it’s been a year full of traveling and con-going for me (aka a year filled with the sobs of my hollowing bank account), Leviosa was the best last hurrah a writer could ask for. I’m not sure where I’ll go next, or even when, but I am so grateful for all the experiences and memories and friends I’ve made throughout my travels so far.

At the moment, though, it’s so nice to be back home—to get back to work, and gear up for whatever is looming on the horizon next.

Surprise—I went to BookCon!

I am seriously still just as surprised as the title of this post. Going to BookCon was such a impulsive last minute decision, but I am IMMENSELY glad that I hopped on a plane yet again to attend another bookish event with my CPs! However, to make peace with the impulsiveness of going on yet another trip, I told myself that it was time to Get. Down. To. Business. Mulan-style, of course. And soooo, before all the BookCon fun, here are some other things that have been happening!


I FINISHED REWRITING MY NEW MIDDLE PORTION!! *confetti on confetti on confetti*

One of the biggest challenges I’m tackling in this first round of revisions is to basically give my Act 2 for Pirate Fantasy an extreme makeover. I knew it, my main character knew it, everyone knew it. Rather than try to work around the bits that weren’t flowing in attempts to salvage them, I decided to scrap my whole middle portion and start from the ground up. Yup. 30k of words I’d painfully hacked at for months until I had no clue what else to do with them—gone.

Instead of mourning the purge of all that progress, I felt so unbelievably good about it. For a time I thought I must’ve been in some crazy-writer-shock to have gleefully deleted chapter upon chapter, but I wasn’t. That’s how you know you’ve got dead weight in your hands—when you realize that you can live without it, that you don’t need it, and that you can do much better. I’m not going to say it was easy-peasy rebuilding those foundations all over again—but this time around, it definitely felt much more fun and just right-er, if that makes sense. After two weeks of brainstorming and rediscovering the beats of that act, and then a little over a month of drafting and revision tweaks in between, I finally have about 37k of brand new material that I’m deliriously excited to start fine-tuning. The words are nowhere near perfect, but they are written and ready to be molded into something great.



Sooooo remember that panel I’ll be on at Leviosa Con this July? Turns out I’m now speaking at two, and the best surprise of all is that I’ll be accompanied on both by my all around awesome Pitch Wars co-mentor and friend Axie Oh! For anyone attending, we’ll both be on Diversity in YA Lit and Adults Reading YA trying not to be too weird  🙂


In other news, the Boston Teen Author Festival announced their amazing line up earlier this month, and I’m literally bouncing with excitement at the thought of all the incredible authors attending! As it’s the five year anniversary of the festival, you know it’s going to be one heck of a party. We’re already gearing up for some fun social media happenings this summer that will include a #BTAFbookchallenge on Instagram and a fab five-answer questionnaire on Twitter under the #BTAFive hashtag. Our authors will be participating, so we hope everyone can follow along and join in, too!!



So during my stay Chicago, I FINALLY hit my revision milestone (in the creative atmosphere of a brewery lol) just in time for BookCon! I stayed with my absolute favorites Maddy and Erin, and when we weren’t on work dates trying to squeeze some writing in, we indulged in allllll the bookish fun at BookCon with our other favorites Kat and Meg!

We had an early start, and quickly realized when we arrived at BookCon that “early” wasn’t early enough. Crowds of people were ALREADY lined up well across the whole building just to get into the show floor when we arrived. Luckily, we were able to snag spots in line for Naomi Novik’s signing line after so many author slots had already filled up from the overcrowded pandemonium. But even without those sacred wristbands to gain you a signing spot, there were SO many other opportunities to grab books and enjoy more author signings popping up at every publishing house booth all throughout the day.


The line to get INSIDE (but at least there were pretty book banners along the way!)


People! So many people!


The sacred show floor


Sacred show floor + Erin’s face


Panel with Victoria Aveyard, Sarah J. Maas, and Laini Taylor—and one HILARIOUS moderator, Jeff Giles

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Got to meet yet another one of my fab agent sisters, Wendy Spinale!


Grabbed some pretty sweet Everland swag as well. Seriously, how cool are these wings!??


Got to chat with the lovely Susan Dennard . . . until paparazzi descended on us from all sides


Scholastic booth had a super rad coloring wall with all the Harry Potter things

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Books on books on books

The rest of BookCon in general was just chaos . . . in a good way! It was a day filled with walking by booths with familiar/highly-anticipated titles displayed like movie poster billboards, bumping into so many cool authors and trying not to freak out in their faces, and getting to attend some really awesome panels. I know I’m totally not alone in this, but my FAVORITE panel by far was the WNDB Presents: Love & Loss in Children’s Literature panel which featured Jenny Han, Gene Luen Yang, Francisco X. Stork, Anna-Marie McLemore, Sherman Alexie, and Leigh Bardugo, and was moderated by Dhonielle Clayton! I was seriously just nodding my head the whole time and was so speechless by what each speaker had to say. Their stories and experiences of love and loss were so powerful and different from each other, but all equally added such enormous meaning to the discussion. All of the anecdotes shared were funny, heartbreaking, and truly informed the reader where each author was coming from in terms of reflecting the topics in their own stories and characters. Seriously, it was SUCH a fantastic panel, and I hope to attend more just like it!


The awesome panel that was just way too awesome

Aside from waiting to get into panels, there was a lot of waiting in lines to get books. I’m so glad I wore something comfortable because we were on our feet pretty much the entire day—whether it was rushing to get somewhere, or standing to wait for something. By the end of BookCon, I felt super victorious from all the things we accomplished and all the people we met—but that moment of victory faded when we had to rush out of Chicago to make it to ANOTHER book event!

Yup, right after BookCon, Maddy, Erin, and I went straight to Anderson’s Book Shop for Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Mist and Fury signing! And just when you thought we hadn’t waited nearly enough that whole day, we were DEAD LAST in line for the signing. But when fun CP shenanigans ensue, time always passes faster, so Maddy, Erin, and I were not complaining. We were just dead tired. Sarah had also just come back from a full day at BookCon, so we all seemed to just bask in the same exhausted glory by the time we reached the signing table.

As this was the first time I met Sarah, I’m so glad I held it in together enough to coherently tell her how her journey to publication had basically kept me writing and motivated throughout college, and how I’ve progressed in my own writing journey since then. She was SO excited, lovely, and offered me the greatest insights on the agent revision stage and submission process she herself went through so that I could feel prepared. In all honesty, College Freshman Janella would seriously not believe me if I went back in time and told her to anticipate this kind of conversation with one of the authors whose writing journey constantly reminded her that dreams of writing and publication are never impossible if you have the passion and the drive.


Aforementioned fun CP shenanigans


Sarah’s signing! Credit: Side Camera Erin


Of course, HAD to get a pic with her (last in line privileges, woot woot)


My overall haul 😀

So altogether, a PACKED day of bookish fun. Even though I’m back home and have forced myself not to travel anywhere far again in the near future aside from Leviosa Con, there are a few faces I’m going to miss . . .



JUST KIDDING, though I do miss Maddy’s cat begging for head scratches and attention. No, this is definitely what I’m going to miss the most . . .



Okayyyy, maybe I WILL actually miss these things. The wine, and the blessed taproom that strangely became one of the best places to write in. But no, I guess of all things, I’m going to (and already do) miss hanging with these crazies:


So now after all the fun, it’s BACK. TO. WORK. FOR REALS, THIS TIME. Hold me accountable, Internet friends. I’m diving into the revisions cave (a.k.a. the Point of No Return) where I hope to make sense of what I’ve written, and continue to gloriously chip away at the story that’s more or less consumed my life. Good luck to everyone else who’s braving writing and revising land along with me!  ❤

Colorado Loving, NaNoWriMo, and What I’m Thankful For

Belated Happy Thanksgiving to you all! Unfortunately, November became the month that I didn’t write a blog post. *sulks*

And somehow, it’s now already December. HOW. WHAT. WHYYY.

I guess since it’s a new month/THE END OF THE FREAKING YEAR, why not kick it off with the truckload of good energy courtesy of the magical, hectic month that was November? There were many things and many travels, so for organization’s sake, let’s break it down into three parts:


Because my CPs and I clearly can’t stand to be away from each other for more than five minutes (it’s a problem), we all decided to meet up in gorgeous Colorado for a cabin-in-the-woods style writing retreat in honor of NaNoWriMo! And let me tell you, it may have been the best and worst decision of my life. Best, because I got to actually meet more of my lovely writing buds in person (Amanda, Erin, and Katy), see Maddy and Akshaya after a hardcore month of separation (again, we seriously have a problem), and enjoy the wonderful environment of Colorado with them all! And of course it was also the worst decision, because I NEVER WANTED TO LEAVE.


Just the casual morning view . . . WTF

Not only was the scenery amazingly gorgeous, but the FOOD. Oh god, I think I more bemoan the fact that I will probably never eat as good as I did there, given that my friends are total food maestros.


Maddy working some culinary magic, and a great big pitcher of caramel apple sangria


Fancy grilled cheesing all day every day


Friendsgiving *salivates*

And of course . . .



For the most part, we had very well-balanced and expertly-crafted meals. After living off of mostly coffee and toast since that’s all I can ever seem to make, my body most definitely appreciated how I briefly lived in a cabin filled with fancy-pants chefs. But in the end, I always had the most love for this kind of end-of-the-day spread:


The happiest of hours!

And we most definitely would not have made it through the day without copious amounts of this:



Okay, I’ll stop before this post turns into an impromptu ode to food. But I can’t help but feel so grateful for every meal since they were all such wonderful incentives to get through the day (is that sad?) and fantastic brain fuel for us writers. Although we were left to our own devices for most of the time, we stuck to certain daily rites to help get the productivity going.


Daily goals board, complete with inspirational quote and decorative art


Accomplishments board, which may or may not have slid into pure artistic chaos (i.e. Maddy’s celebratory drawing)


Aw man, how I miss waking up to this usual morning view

And from then on, we would go off into our own writing nooks to get work done, with many a cheese break in between. Many.

But we weren’t just mindless writing machines for this entire trip (though we should’ve tried to be). We saw many animals and shooting stars, sang way too much Disney together, had multiple round-table discussions regarding Avatar and Hogwarts Houses, survived a lil storm called AJAX, went to a super awesome book signing, and a lot more. The evidence is all below.


Impromptu baby hike in the snowy trails




That night I slayed Maddy with all the jokes




Crazy horse with crazy eyes

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The absolute coolest way to plot a novel! Courtesy of the foxy Amanda and Maggie Stiefvater’s tarot cards

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I got to meet MARISSA MEYER. And promptly told her how her blog/journey to publication inspired me SO much in my own journey. I fangirled pretty hard.


Of course, I couldn’t leave the bookstore without purchasing these beauties


And then of course, we couldn’t leave the store without taking some pics aka proof that we actually hung out with each other


I call this one “Random Assortment of Emojis”

Clearly, mayhem in the purest form ensued. It was the greatest way to start the first half of November, and I really wish I had the smarts to build a time machine to go back and do it all over again! Or, maybe just build a teleportation device to see my lovely writer buddies since we’re pretty much scattered all across the country. All in all, this trip taught me two very important things: 1) I have amazing friends. 2) I just have to keep writing.


As it’s already December (meep), NaNo has come to its end . . . but that doesn’t mean it’s over in the slightest! People who know me and my pantsing ways can conclude that I LOVE NaNo. It’s helped me finish my novels over the past few years, and this time of the season in general remained a wildly creative period for me. As mentioned before, I was crazy lucky to be able to start off NaNo with a bunch of fantastically creative people. With all those writerly energies just swirling about the cabin, it was impossible not to feel motivated to get work done each and every day.

But this year was a bit different for me. Because I wanted to take the time to get through more revision stuff for pirate fantasy, I was unable to start my shiny new NaNo WIP (which I’m now just affectionately calling phantom fantasy) until mid-November.

And guess what—I did not make it to 50k by the end. Even though I was pounding out alllllll the words everyday, Thanksgiving ultimately brought a sledgehammer to my steady NaNo flow. On the night of November 30th, I ended up with around 37k words. And for a brief moment, I was SUPER down on myself.

How could I have broken my successful NaNo streak? How could I have let the siren call of pies and turkey keep me from losing my wordcount momentum!?

And you know what, I just took a deep breath and a step back. I put a lid on that kind of thinking just as instantly as it started trickling through. I can’t let myself think about this in terms of winning and losing. NaNo is all about progress and pushing yourself. Sure there’s a deadline, but it’s more for motivation’s sake than anything. It’s not like just because November is over that I’m going to stop writing this new novel. Hell no! Nothing could stop me from writing this since I’m still very much in love and excited with the story! And in fact, when I think about it, I didn’t even start writing at the beginning of November—which technically means I haven’t fully completed a NaNo period, but also sheds light on how much I’ve accomplished in just half of a month.

So instead of bullying myself on the morning of December 1st, I gave myself a pat on the back. When it comes down to it, progress is always progress, and I’m so satisfied with how much I’ve made in the month of November regardless of the fact that I’ll probably have to rewrite A LOT of it. All that I’ve written so far has been rewarding enough, all the glorious 37k of it.

Even though I’ve won NaNo in the past, I know hands down that The Year I “Lost” ranks as my favorite—because instead of remembering those past times of achieving all the wordcount goals by toiling away at my computer alone in my room like a hermit cave dweller, I think more about my progress and spending a great chunk of November surrounded by my writing herd.


Okay, last one. And probably the shortest.

After the Colorado madness in the first half of November, we jumped straight into Thanksgiving afterward. This year, I went to Long Island to visit family, and I came out with many a food coma. It was absolutely wonderful.

But I felt even luckier this year since I technically celebrated Thanksgiving twice—one with family, and one with friends aka my first Friendsgiving! Both gave me the chance to reflect on the wonderful moments of this year, but I don’t think a day goes by where I’m not constantly thankful for all of it. 2015 has been one of the best, most memorable years of my life, by far. I let writing take the front seat, met my amazing group of writing friends who totally get me, and have been able to add a lot more exciting stops on my journey to publication than I ever thought possible. And this year, I feel a lot less alone in it.

It all sounds ridiculously sappy now that I’m typing it out, but it’s true. This is the year I found my herd, and I’m so thankful to be in this with them every step of the way now.

To end this on an even sappier note (because who doesn’t love more sap), I cracked open a fortune cookie shortly after my trip to Colorado. I’m one of those people who LOVES opening fortune cookies, but lately I’ve been getting ridiculous fortunes that have absolutely no relevance to life whatsoever. But when I opened this one, this little gem popped out:


I know, I’m about the biggest sap master right now, but it just brought the hugest smile on my face to get this fortune in light of all the duds I’d gotten lately! So to my writing cabbages, if you’re reading this, I’m enormously thankful for you all. The proof is most definitely in the fortune cookie.

7/7/7 Challenge!

I honestly NEVER get nominated for anything—so huge thanks to Maddy for first doing the honors, and to everyone else who has also tagged me in this challenge! Now, with the exception of some highly amusing fanfiction from way back in the day, I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve posted an excerpt of anything I’ve written. For real.


If you’ve been reading my posts you all know by now that I’ve been affectionately calling my manuscript Pirate Fantasy for the time being. I know, so original and creative. I’ve kept a lot of details under wraps about it, but to honor the challenge, here’s just a brief peek of what Pirate Fantasy is all about!

Guidelines for the 7/7/7 challenge:

  • Go to page 7 of your WIP (Work in Progress)
  • Scroll down to line 7
  • Share the next 7 sentences in a blog post.
  • After the excerpt tag 7 other writers (or however many you’re able to) to continue the challenge.

Context of the excerpt:

My 7/7/7 part unfortunately lands in an odd place, but it’s basically in the middle of a conversation between my MC and one of her sleazy clients at the brothel where she “works.” In between his drunken proposal, they drop hints about the strange sort of world they live in—and an even stranger island.


Isle St. Remany was about as exotic as you could get in a circle of just six islands. No one lasted a night there without returning wrung dry of sanity, spewing crazed accounts of everything from freezing hailstorms to clouds on the ground. The girls and I often entertained ourselves with tales of the land everyone feared. Silvius wasn’t nearly as amused.

“St. Remany?” he scoffed. “No, I mean beyond the Circle.”

The word had a power which shivered through me. Beyond. He was an idiot for even suggesting it. I almost blurted it when suddenly, he grabbed my chin and pulled me toward him.

So there you have it! Thanks again for the nominations from my good writing pals Maddy, Akshaya, and Katy who have ALL completed the challenge, so be sure to check them out as well!

And since a lot of my writing friends have already been challenged, I’ll tag two other awesome ladies to join in on this crazy party as well 🙂

My nominations: Erin and Meg!