Speed of Life Blog Tour – Joëlle Anthony and I talk Critique Partners

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I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour for SPEED OF LIFE by J.M Kelly aka Joëlle  Anthony.

As well as being a wonderful author, Joëlle is my dear friend, and my critique partner. To celebrate the publication of SPEED OF LIFE, Joëlle and I had a chat about critique partners, how to find them, and why they’re important. We hope you enjoy it.


Joëlle  A lot of people ask me how I found my critique partners, and so I want to say right here that we became friends first. I think the best thing a writer can do is find other writers to hang out with (in real life or virtually) and get to know them so they know if they can trust them to help them or not. I remember thinking a lot of you (as I do now) from the beginning and knowing I could trust your opinion because you said smart things on your blog about the books you were reading.

 Each of my early readers seem to offer different things based on their personalities. One of the things that’s great about having a Brit read my writing is that sometimes things I think are really clear, aren’t always so straight forward to you. This keeps me honest as a writer. You’re also very good at noticing the things other people seem to miss…and when it comes to any romance in the book, I can count on you to call me on anything cheesy or things that don’t need to be there at all.

 Hopefully I offer you something when I critique your writing. Maybe you can talk about that?

Alexa You were the first person to read my first story! It was a really terrifying experience, but I trusted you and I knew you would make the story better, which you did. You were so helpful and encouraging, but you also gave me a lot of notes on what was wrong too.

You’re great at structure and telling me when the story isn’t moving along rapidly enough. You also make my work better by encouraging me to be meaner to my characters and really push them to the edge.

Joëlle  I am not good at pulling punches when critiquing. I will always tell you what’s good (funny, lovely, wonderful), but I also will just say, “Your teen boy sounds like he’s 40 years old.” And I don’t really worry about your feelings because the truth is that if I sugar-coat anything, then you just have to do more work in the end. I really feel like it’s kinder to say, “this bit is slow.” I was probably more scared than you when I critiqued you because the last thing I’d want to do is hurt your feelings, but I don’t really know how to critique any other way.

 Do you have advice for people trying to find critique partners? Do you have others besides me? How did you find them?

Alexa   I’ve found all my critique partners the same way – people I got friendly with through blogs or social media. So that’s the way I’d recommend doing it. You need chemistry with your critique partners; it’s a really important relationship. It’s so great when you find someone you click with, who gets what you’re trying to do.

Have you ever critiqued in person rather than over email?

Joëlle  I sometimes critique at conferences. I love doing the “blue pencils” at conferences because the writers make an appointment with me, bring in 3 pages, I read them quickly, and then we discuss them. I think this works really well because you can share first impressions. I’ve also done ones where I’ve read 20-50 pages ahead of time and then met face to face with the writer for thirty minutes. I find those much more difficult because if they’re not that good, then you have to try and figure out not only some positives, but also which things to tackle because you can’t cover everything in thirty minutes. And just for the record, I am a lot more gentle with people who I don’t know personally because I NEVER want to discourage anyone. But it often makes me feel as if I’m not really helping them as much as I could too, so I try not to do this too often.



SPEED OF LIFE is in stores now.


I hope you’ll visit the other blogs taking part in the tour and pick up a copy of SPEED OF LIFE, it’s a wonderful book.
Thanks for stopping by, we hope you enjoyed out chat.

Four Books For Fall

Fall is here; season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. The trees are turning gorgeous reds and golds outside my window, Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back in Starbucks, and I can break out my cozy socks and snuggly sweaters. I adore this time of year.

One of the best things about the cooler weather is getting to curl up in front of roaring fire, with a mug of hot chocolate and a new book.

These are four books I can’t wait to read this Fall.



Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

I’ve been waiting for this sequel since the moment I finished the fabulous Six of Crows. My copy is coming form the UK (so it matches) and I’m obsessively checking the mail.


Speed of Life by J. M Kelly

I’ve actually read this already, but I can’t wait to read it as a proper book. It’s by my critique partner, the amazing Joëlle Anthony, writing here as J. M Kelly. This is definitely one you want to read.


Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta

Adult crime fiction is not normally my first choice of reading material, but it’s by Melina Marchetta, so it’s a must for me.


Foxheart by Claire Legrand

I  love the sound of this – a young thief and her loyal dog, encounter a witch in a world where magic is dangerous and forbidden.


Friday Five – Five Things I Do Besides Writing 

1) Read

Reading is one of my absolutely favourite things to do. Some of my favourite characters feel like old friends, I love spending time with them. And I never get tired of being transported to different times and places and worlds. 

2) Bake

I’m not that keen on cooking (maybe because I have to do it every day) but I love to bake. 

3) Strength Train

The past month I’ve really got into strength training. My gym runs a class based in the training ballet dancers do and I love it. 

4) Walking the dog

Ever since we got out dog, last year, I’ve come to love our daily walks. I’m really grateful that he gets me out the house twice a day, everyday. Especially in winter, as it would be really tempting to curl up indoors. We walk in the same wood and I love seeing it change as the year progresses. 

5) Crafts

This is more aspirational. I love Pinterest and I wish I could make Pinterest worthy things, but most things I make are a bit wonky🙂 Luckily my son doesn’t mind and we have fun making stuff together. 
What other things do you do to keep busy?
I’m joining J. M. Kelly (a.k.a Joelle Anthony) in posting a Friday Five every week. Next week’s Friday Five is Five People I’d love to meet. I hope you’ll join in. 

Friday Five – Five things I love about Spring 

The lovely thing about Ottawa is that after the long (and I mean long), cold winter spring arrives overnight. And spring here is the same as an English summer, but with less rain. Yay Canada!

So here’s  the top five things I love about Spring in Ottawa. 

1) Sandels and pretty toes.

2) BBQ’s  & Picnics – As Eind Blyton always said, food tastes better outside. 

3) Tulips. My all time favourite flower. 

4) Pimms. It’s the taste of spring. 
5) Early morning walks with the dog, without having to bundle up in a thousand layers. 

I’m joining J. M. Kelly (a.k.a Joelle Anthony) in posting a Friday Five every week. Next week’s Friday Five is Things I do when I’m not writing. I hope you’ll join in. 

Currently #7

I’m joining Katy Upperman in posting a Currently update every other Tuesday.
You should join in.


Spring! It’s finally arrived. This weekend we had a BBQ. I also made trifle, which was delicious, but isn’t the most photogenic dessert, so here’s a photo of my Pimms (best Spring/summer drink) and my current read instead.



THE WINNER’S KISS by Marie Rutkoski, it’s so amazingly good.


A Game of Thrones, it’s completely addictive, even if I do have to close my eyes and cover my ears on occasion. I just wish the episodes were longer, I’m not getting enough time with my favourites!

Listening To

YEAR OF YES by Shona Rhimes . I’m enjoying this book immensely. I must admit to having no idea who Shona Rhimes was when I started and I was completely baffled the first few times she mentioned Shonaland! I completely see why she owns Thursday night TV though, this book is funny, smart, and endearing. I’m loving following Shona through her Year of Yes. She reads the book too and is amazing. It’s like having a really great, albeit one sided, chat with a friend.


Starting THE RAVEN KING by Maggie Stiefvater. I can’t wait, but I almost don’t want to start, because then it will be over.

Making Me Happy

The gorgeous painting my son did for me for Mothers’ Day.


What’s making you happy today?

Friday Five – Places I want to set a Novel

I love being transported to other worlds, by a novel, be they real or imagined. My favourite books all have wonderful settings. 

I’m working hard to create a strong sense of place in my own writing. These are five places I want to set future books. 

St Michael’s Mount

My SNI is set here. This place definitely has a magical feel, perfect for my MG fantasy. 

New York, USA

I love New York. It’s so frenetic and round every corner is an iconic building. 

Cambridge, UK

Cambridge is another favourite city and I have lots of happy memories here. It’s so beautiful. I especially love the rooftops. I can imagine my characters clambering  across them. I just have to work out why they would be on a roof🙂

Washington, D.C. USA 

I lived in Washington for four years, it’s a wonderful city. I have a possible idea for a story set here. 

Paris, France

If I ever write a pure love story I’m setting it in the City of Lights. 
I’m joining J. M. Kelly (a.k.a Joelle Anthony) in posting a Friday Five every week. Next week’s Friday Five is Things I love about Spring. I hope you’ll join in

Currently #6

Currently (2)
I’m joining Katy Upperman in posting a Currently update every other Tuesday. You should join in.





We visited last weekend and had a marvellous time. We went up the CN Tower, visited the aquarium, and wandered around the harbour. We also did a day trip to Niagara Falls which was breathtaking.



I just finished Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens. Which was a marvellous mixture of Miss Marple and Mallory Towers. I really loved it, but I was quite surprised to find a murder in a middle grade book.


I’m counting down to watching A Game of Thrones tonight. No spoilers please!

Listening Too

The Dirty Dancing Soundtrack. They were playing Hungry Eyes in Farmboy (home of eightiestastic hits) and so I downloaded the album. It’s bringing back so many memories.


YA Buccaneers Spring Writing Bootcamp! I love bootcamp and I’m hoping it will help me finish this revision. If you want to join in you can sign up at YA Buccaneers.

Making Me Happy

My son got a speaking part in the Spring Concert and he is so excited and proud of himself. It’s lovely to see.

Let me know what you’re Currently up to in the comments!