#TRUESTsem Schedule, Assignments, and Passwords

I hope you’re excited for #TRUESTsem, my first BookDeeply event, a virtual book club meets free writing seminar. Learn more about BookDeeply in general and TRUESTsem in particular here.

(Thanks, Aften, for the name inspiration!)

Schedule and Passwords

Here’s the schedule for this month’s BookDeeply, along with the passwords to unlock the posts. You’ll want to read the chapters before reading my post.

  1. Truest chapters 1–5: October 10
    1. No Password Needed
  2. Truest chapters 6–10: October 12
    1. Password: chapter 5, fifth word of the last sentence. rescue
  3. Truest chapters 11–15: October 15
    1. Password: “The song was like an _______” anthem
  4. Truest chapters 16–20: October 18
    1. Password: “How could brilliance love a _____?” blur
  5. Truest chapters 21–25: October 20
    1. Password: The name of Silas’ poem truest
  6. Truest chapters 26–30: October 24
    1. Last word of chapter 30. yes
  7. Truest chapters 31–35: October 25
    1. Last word of chapter 34. truth

Note: each password is a single word with no capital letters.

Remember that you can join the discussion after the fact, too! All you need is a copy of the book. On October 15th’s post, I’ll ask if anyone wants to do a live hangout or group chat at the end of the month.


I’ll be dividing the assignments into two tracks. The first is for plot, and the second is for character and theme. You can participate in one, both, or neither.

BookDeeply Track A: Plot Marginalia

If you’ve got your own copy of the book and have no qualms about writing in it, I want you to have a pencil with you when you’re reading so you can annotate the reversals. In the margins, you’ll draw the following symbols:

+ Character comes up with new goal
– Character doesn’t get what they want
-> character gets what they want

Draw a PLUS SIGN when a character has a new goal. Underline that goal or state in the margins.
Draw an ARROW when they get what they want. Underline the achievement or state in the margins.
Draw a MINUS when they don’t get what they want. Underline the failure or state in the margins.

BookDeeply Track B: Character and Theme Notebook

Divide a notebook page into six boxes (2 columns of 3 rows) and label them:
1. Conflict/Motivations
2. Questions
3. Predictions
4. Answers
5. Motifs
6. Possible themes

Depending on how you write notes, you could have a page per section or a page per chapter. You could also have a page for each of these categories, for example listing questions as you find them on one page, including a page or chapter number. It depends on what you’d rather see at a glance: what goes into a single chapter or section, or how often a literary element appears or how it progresses.

For each chapter, I’d like you to list a new conflict that comes up while you’re reading. It can be as simple as “West vs Dad” or as complicated as “West feels humiliated when she first meets Silas—why is he acting weird?” Sometimes it’s difficult to figure out a character’s motivations. In these cases, look at conflict. There’s no conflict between characters who want the same things! Some characters might seem like they want the same thing, but their approaches clash. If character motivations are obvious, include them in this square.

2–4—Questions, Predictions, Answers
In one box, keep a list of questions that each chapter asks but doesn’t answer. In another, include predictions of what might happen next or what the answers to those questions might be. When you come across answers, note what chapter the question appeared in.

5–6—Motifs, Themes
Include another box for motifs. Motifs are like miniature themes that can be stated in one word. For example, “Truth” is a motif. “Truth is worth killing for” is a theme. Themes are stated in a sentence. In stories that have a central theme, characters will prove or disprove that theme.

The theme is the thesis, and the story is the argument. It’s difficult to really know what the theme is right at the beginning, but in some cases, the theme is stated outright (this is especially true in movies). In the theme box, write down lines that might be the novel’s thematic statement.

If you’re participating in the read along, read chapters 1–5 this week and come back on Saturday for the discussion. If you’ve never commented on my blog before, your comment might not appear until Sunday. I’ll be at NerdCon and might not have time to approve new comments.


Help Me Name This Cool Thing.

I’ve been playing around with the idea of starting a virtual book club with live chats and online hangouts, but I wasn’t really sure how I could pull it off.

Later, I thought it would be cool to deconstruct Jackie Lea Sommer’s debut novel TRUEST on my blog, but somehow still support Jackie.

Then I thought, why not combine the two?

I’m launching #TRUESTsem in two weekends. Here’s the idea, which you may have already seen if you follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, or Facebook:

I’m going to do a TRUEST read-along and writing seminar in October! TRUEST is a contemporary YA novel, and I’ll be blogging a deconstruction of it, but you’ll have to own or borrow a copy to read the later posts. If you write or want to write contemporary or literary YA, you won’t want to miss this!

We’ll start on October 10, and you can join in or stop by at any time, because you’ll unlock sessions with passwords found in the book. Tweet or post using #TRUESTsem if you’re going to join!

If enough people join the writing seminar, I’ll host some online hangouts so we can discuss the book, just like a book club. Then participants can vote on a genre or a debut novel being published in the spring for our next session in 2017.

Here’s how to join:

  • Subscribe to my blog if you haven’t already.
  • Buy or borrow a copy of TRUEST. That’s it—the cost of this seminar is to support a debut author.
  • Tell your friends to do the above! You can use the image at the bottom of this post on your social media pages. Also check out Jackie’s blog and social media for some great TRUEST memes with pretty images and quotes from the book.
  • If you know English teachers, have them encourage their students to join! (Some books may include adult material—I’ll give a parent rating for each book during the first session.)
  • Start reading at any time and chat about it (no spoilers!) using #TRUESTsem on social media.
  • Take notes!
  • Come to my blog on October 10 for the first post.
  • Comment on the blog posts if you’ve got questions or would like to join a hangout. If enough people respond, I’ll send out a survey with possible dates & times. The group hangout(s) will be private so we can discuss the books without spoiling it for anybody.

Here’s what I need help with:

  • I need a catchy umbrella term for these writing seminars / souped-up book clubs. If you comment below, you’re giving me permission to possibly use the term in future posts.

I’m really excited for this, and I’m hoping we can do it again in March if you miss this one! However, if you grab TRUEST later, the blog posts will still be on my blog. Just unlock with words from the book!


Indie70 Sneak Peek—The Box in the Corner by W. R. Cummings


I’m always excited when my clients publish books! Earlier this month, W. R. Cummings published her first novel, The Box in the Corner, a gritty YA that I admitted to procrastinating on because I didn’t want it to end! I’ll be honest, gritty YA isn’t really my thing, and in the last year I’ve read several that were very bleak. I wasn’t sure I’d be the right editor for this book. But when Whitney sent me her first 1,000 words, I got sucked in by Charlie’s voice and her predicament. Then I met the other characters, and I was hooked!

The Box in the Corner paints a realistic view of life on the streets. This book is not meant for young readers. It includes strong language, references to drug use, and some sexual content. It also includes humor, hope, and healing.

I really appreciate that Charlie and Ben have separate character arcs while their love develops. And Ozzie—who at times reminded me of Sirius Black, Earl from Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and Fred from Big Hero 6—might possibly get my award for best supporting character this year.

I was honored to copyedit this book! Today I’ll share the blurb with you and page 70, so you can get a feel for the novel. If you’d like to read more, click the cover to be taken to Amazon.

Follow the author on Twitter

Follow the author on Twitter!


Life on the streets has never been easy for seventeen-year-old Charlie. But when she meets a boy with split personalities, it gets even harder.

The way Ben sees the world through eyes of kindness and grace draws Charlie in. But his bursts in and out of mania become too much for her to handle. Each time he chases her through the city with a knife, she wonders how much longer she’ll be able to stay.

Desperate to escape Ben’s insanity, Charlie hunts down a psychotherapist who claims to have a cure. If Ben’s mental chains can be broken, Charlie might finally be able to tell him she loves him. Their lives could turn around. But if Ben can’t shake his past, Charlie might end up with a slit throat instead of a happily ever after.


Page 70

I’ve spent every moment with him for almost three years, and he’s never even looked my direction. Never even hinted at it. But two hours away from his friends and he’s hooking up with the first crackhead he can find.

When Ozzie emerged from the bathroom a while later, he sat on the end of the bed and sighed. We didn’t talk, but I knew he was as angry as I was. It was one thing for us to guess at what Luca was doing with Ben’s body. But it was something completely different for us to see it firsthand.

I felt Ozzie crawl up to the other side of the mattress and get under the blankets. He turned away from me, squirmed for a few minutes, and then was snoring as loudly as usual. I lay there, staring at the ceiling, for what felt like hours.

I didn’t realize I’d fallen asleep until Ben shook me.

“Charlie,” he muttered. “Wake up.”

At first, I didn’t know where I was. My eyes were swollen and I could hardly see.

Then I saw the armchair in the corner of the room, and the pain of the night before came rushing back to me. I felt sick. I rolled out of bed, careful not to disturb Ozzie, and stalked past Ben to the door. I held the door open so he could follow.

“Want to tell me what happened last night?” he said the moment we were on the other side of the door.

I looked out at the city horizon. “Not particularly.”

“What do you mean not particularly? Why was Ozzie in bed with you?”

I whipped around, gawking at him before I could stop myself. “What did you say?”

“Why was Ozzie sleeping with you? He knows he’s supposed to sleep on the floor in situations like this. He knows he’s not supposed to make you feel uncomfortable.”

“Are you kidding me? Are you freaking KIDDING ME, Ben? That’s what you want to know? You want to know if Ozzie and I messed around last night?”

Ben’s face twisted with confusion. His anger slowly dissipated and turned into something much less offensive. He took a step back, as if he thought I might start swinging.

Want more? Start from the beginning here.

Note: As a freelance copyeditor, I often don’t see my clients’ final works until they have been printed. The author gets to choose which edits to accept or reject, and I don’t perform the final proofread. If you spot an error in one of my clients’ books, feel free to contact me, and I’ll send word to the author.

10 Weeks Till Truest: The Evolution of a Book Cover

Tuesday is Truestday! Follow Jackie to get some insight on the publishing process. Her debut novel hits shelves in September!


t10Join me in counting down the final weeks till Truest’s publication! Every Tuesday, I’ll be posting something Truest-related. Please feel free to re-blog, pin, tweet, share on Facebook, etc.– I’d love to get the word out! And, of course, you can pre-order your own copy here!

Today I’m excited to share with you how Truest‘s book cover came to be. (And please excuse the weird formatting toward the end– once I started inserting pictures, it all went haywire!)

At the end of April 2014, Laurel, an editor at Katherine Tegen Books, sent me this email:

While Jill is still working on gathering notes for you on the latest revision, I have another exciting step in the publication process. We get to start thinking about your cover! Jill and I will fill out a form to share with our designers—who work serious magic and make the best…

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