Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hello? Anybody here?

I know I have been seriously neglecting my blog lately, but it's for good reason! I've been very busy working on a query and freaking out and revising and freaking out and critiquing. So... yeah. My bad! BUT I'm going to a local SCBWI Conference this weekend and after that, I should have a little more free time.

I'm also planning a BIG international contest when I hit 400 followers, and a MAJOR international contest for my birthday in June! So spread the word. The sooner I get 400 followers, the sooner I start giving stuff away!

What have I missed in the blog world? Anything exciting happen to you or someone you know?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday 21 - Glimmerglass

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking The Spine. This week's choice is:

Glimmerglass by Jenna Black - Release Date: May 25, 2010
It’s all she’s ever wanted to be, but it couldn’t be further from her grasp…

Dana Hathaway doesn’t know it yet, but she’s in big trouble. When her alcoholic mom shows up at her voice recital drunk, again, Dana decides she’s had enough and runs away to find her mysterious father in Avalon: the only place on Earth where the regular, everyday world and the captivating, magical world of Faerie intersect. But from the moment Dana sets foot in Avalon, everything goes wrong, for it turns out she isn't just an ordinary teenage girl—she's a Faeriewalker, a rare individual who can travel between both worlds, and the only person who can bring magic into the human world and technology into Faerie.

Soon, Dana finds herself tangled up in a cutthroat game of Fae politics. Someone's trying to kill her, and everyone seems to want something from her, from her newfound friends and family to Ethan, the hot Fae guy Dana figures she’ll never have a chance with… until she does. Caught between two worlds, Dana isn’t sure where she’ll ever fit in and who can be trusted, not to mention if her world will ever be normal again…

It's funny, I keep saying I'm not really into faerie stories and then I keep finding faerie books I want to read! I think what I like about this is that while it's about the faerie world, it also sounds like it's very grounded in our world too. With Dana's real world family problems, this reminds me of the Wicked Lovely books, or Holly Black's Tithe. I love the idea that technology matters in the faerie world. I'm very intrigued to read this one.

This is Jenna Black's YA debut. She's also written several adult Urban Fantasy books. Glimmerglass is on my debut authors challenge list. Is it on yours?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

In My Mailbox - 22

I got some cool stuff this week. The British paperback version of Spells, Thirst 1 & 2 - I actually read these a long time ago and I thought I had all 6 books but I couldn't find them so yay for re-releases!

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren

Spells by Aprilynne Pike
Thirst No. 1: The Last Vampire, Black Blood, Red Dice by Christopher Pike
Thirst No. 2: Phantom, Evil Thirst, Creatures of Forever by Christopher Pike
Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

The Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong

Thursday, April 22, 2010

There Is No Competition

As some of you might know, I was stunned and thrilled to be one of the winners of Miss Snark's First Victim's Secret Agent contest! (You can read my entry here - #6 Imaginary Heart) But after jumping up and down and blogging/tweeting/facebook announcing my win I started to think about that word.

Winner. What does it really mean? How can you "win" a subjective contest. And that reminded me of a an idea I've kicked around since my acting days. The idea that there is no competition especially not when it comes to art. (And writing is art, just in case you didn't know.) How can anyone win anything that's based on personal preference? The ten of us selected in this month's Secret Agent contest appealed to that agent at this time in her life. Another agent might not have liked any of the entries she chose.

It's the same with the stories you tell. What resonates with some people won't resonate with others, but does that mean that the story that a million people relate to is better than the one that only five people love? No. Especially if those five people love that book with their whole heart and soul.

Sure you can look at things like how much money a book made, how many copies it sold, but even that doesn't mean much. Books don't start on a level playing field. Some will have bigger marketing budgets, or people who really "get" the story and who it's for.

The point I'm trying to make is that if you base your idea of success on the money you make, the number of books you sell, or the awards you receive, you're going to live a frustrating and disappointing life. Because there's always going to be someone with more opportunities than you, or who's "better" than you at something. And when you focus all your energy on distilling what the "winner" did into a formula and executing it just to beat that one person or thing, you rob yourself of the freedom to create what speaks to you most. The thing that could be your own personal biggest success ever.

Besides, a win for one writer is a win for us all because it means people are buying books!

With that, I leave you with two quotes I came across in the awesome book The Art of War For Writers by James Scott Bell

In the end, a first-class you is better than a second-hand version of somebody else. Write books that can't be clumped with a bunch of similar ones.
- David Morrell

Don't worry about trying to be better than someone else. Always try to be the very best you can be. Learn from others, yes. But don't just try to be better than they are. You have no control over that. Instead try, and try very hard, to be the best you can be. That you have control over.
- John Wooden, legendary UCLA basketball coach

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday 20 - Restoring Harmony

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking The Spine. This week's choice is:

Restoring Harmony by Joëlle Anthony - Release Date: May 13, 2010
The year is 2041, and sixteen-year-old Molly McClure has lived a relatively quiet life on an isolated farming island in Canada, but when her family fears the worst may have happened to her grandparents in the US, Molly must brave the dangerous, chaotic world left after global economic collapse—one of massive oil shortages, rampant crime, and abandoned cities.

Molly is relieved to find her grandparents alive in their Portland suburb, but they’re financially ruined and practically starving. What should’ve been a quick trip turns into a full-fledged rescue mission. And when Molly witnesses something the local crime bosses wishes she hadn’t, Molly’s only way home may be to beat them at their own game. Luckily, there’s a handsome stranger who’s willing to help.

Restoring Harmony is a riveting, fast-paced dystopian tale complete with adventure and romance that readers will devour.

So, I love dystopian. I can never get enough of people's imagining how it all goes wrong. I find this one particularly interesting because it's based on something very real right now, rather than zombies or the Mayan calendar (both of which are also awesome ideas). I especially love the cover and am very curious to know why she's carrying what looks like a violin. This is Joëlle Anthony's debut novel. It's on my debut authors challenge list. Is it on yours?

Monday, April 19, 2010

OMG! I won Secret Agent!

So, I'm kind of stunned right now. I just found out my entry was one of the winners in Miss Snark's First Victim's Secret Agent Contest!

You can read my entry here

This month's agent is Jennifer Laughran from the Andrea Brown Literary Agency and her prizes are so generous and so amazing! She chose ten winners!

What an awesome way to start the week!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Review - Party by Tom Leveen

Party by Tom Leveen -
3.5 out of 5 stars

Party by Tom Leveen
It's saturday night in Santa Barbara and school is done for the year. Everyone is headed to the same party. Or at least it seems that way. The place is packed. The beer is flowing. Simple, right? But for 11 different people the motives are way more complicated. As each character takes a turn and tells his or her story, the eleven individuals intersect, and reconnect, collide, and combine in ways that none of them ever saw coming.

I was really attracted to the idea of this book. One night told through the eyes of eleven different people sounded cool. It turned out that it worked pretty well. Each character that narrates only has one chapter and the night moves more or less forward as each chapter progresses although sometimes a narrator will start their story earlier in the night and then move forward to whereever the last narrator left off at the party.

Some of the chapters were really great, with a fully realized narrator giving us insight into their lives as well as the party itself. Morrigan is one who stuck out to me as particularly authentic and complex. When Leveen is on, he's really on, painting portraits of kids that you feel like you know. Unfortunately, not every chapter is as interesting. There's a lot of internal dialogue in each chapter and some of them are fascinating while others are kind of boring. Several of the boy characters are very similar in voice and with eleven characters, I had a hard time keeping track of who was who and who did what. Especially because one character would mention something in passing that would involve a character that had already narrated, but never got to that point in the night. I did a lot of flipping back and forth to see who said what, when which was a little frustrating - but that's just me. You might be able to follow along much better than I did!

At the very beginning Party sets up a sort of "mystery" that you then read through the whole book to get to, with lots and lots of other stuff unfolding along the way. It was enough of a set up to keep me reading but there were some chapters I wanted to skim or skip over just to find out the ending. Overall I would say this is an ambitious effort that's handled well and populated with some of the most realistic teens I've seen in YA in a while.

Cover: I think the cover is a good representation of what's in the book and it's eye catching. If anything, with all the white in the background, it makes the photos seem like they're posed, which is kind of weird but other than that, it's a pretty cool cover.

Writing: 3.5/5
Characters: 3/5
Plot: 3.5/5

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

In My Mailbox - 21

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

Thirteen Days To Midnight by Patrick Carman
A Love Story: Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner

Pretty Bad Things Claire Skuse
Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate, #1) by Gail Carriger
Changeless (The Parasol Protectorate, #2) by Gail Carriger
The Clearing by Heather Davis
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani
Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday 19 - Gimme A Call

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking The Spine. This week's choice is:

Gimme A Call by Sarah Mlynowski - Release Date: April 27, 2010
A new life is just a phone call away!

Devi's life isn't turning out at all like she wanted. She wasted the past three years going out with Bryan—cute, adorable, break-your-heart Bryan. Devi let her friendships fade, blew off studying, didn't join any clubs... and now that Bryan has broken up with her, she has nothing left.

Not even her stupid cell phone—she dropped it in the mall fountain. Now it only calls one number... hers. At age fourteen, three years ago!

Once Devi gets over the shock—and convinces her younger self that she isn't some wacko—she realizes that she's been given an awesome gift. She can tell herself all the right things to do... because she's already done all the wrong ones! Who better to take advice from than your future self?

Except... what if getting what you think you want changes everything?

Fans of Sarah Mlynowski's Magic in Manhattan series will love this hilarious new novel with a high-concept premise.

If you know me at all, you know I love anything to do with time travel and this book fits nicely into the kind of stories I love. It looks like a fun read. Can't wait to check it out!

Monday, April 12, 2010

AMAZING Giveaway Celebration for Writers!

Sarah Wylie over at Sarah With A Chance is celebrating the sale of her debut novel ALL THESE LIVES with an awesome contest for writers!

Here's what she's giving away:
1 Lucky Winner will receive a critique of their first 30-40 pages by the fabulous Suzie Townsend + a pack of Twizzlers + a copy of Hex Hall.

3 Lucky Winners will receive a query letter critique by one of these three agent extraordinaires: Kathleen Ortiz, Joanna Stampfel-Volpe, or Colleen Lindsay (One agent will be randomly assigned to each winner.)

1 Winner will receive a writer's survival guide consisting of Twizzlers, a copy of Silver Phoenix and When You Reach Me, and a cute notebook and pen.

1 Lucky winner will score a lunch date with THE Janet Reid and THE Suzie Townsend. Um, yeah, that's not a typo. (I'm tempted to enter myself. Would it be so wrong?) Unfortunately, this is not a free trip to NYC. BUT if you live in the NYC area, or whenever you're visiting NYC? You. Janet. Suzie. LUNCH.

Contest ends April 25th. ENTER HERE!

Sunday, April 11, 2010


My awesome crit partner Lacey is having a contest in honor of reaching 500 followers on Twitter. She's giving away a hardcover copy of Beautiful Creatures with an autographed sticker from the Gatlin County Library!

Go HERE to enter!

In My Mailbox - 20

Once again, yay for the Book Depository, early releases, and cool British covers!

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren

Party by Tom Leveen

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan
What They Always Tell Us by Martin Wilson
Knife by R. J. Anderson
Rebel by R. J. Anderson
A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliot
The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman
The Pox Party (The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, #1) by M.T. Anderson
Hold Still by Nina LaCour

Friday, April 9, 2010

Review: The Rise of Renegade X byChelsea M. Campbell

The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea M. Campbell -
5 out of 5 stars

Damien Locke knows his destiny--attending the university for supervillains and becoming Golden City's next professional evil genius. But when Damien discovers he's the product of his supervillain mother's one-night stand with--of all people--a superhero, his best-laid plans are ruined as he's forced to live with his superhero family.

Going to extreme lengths (and heights), The Rise of Renegade X chronicles one boy's struggles with the villainous and heroic pitfalls of growing up.

I LOVE THIS BOOK! Seriously! It's funny - really, really funny. It's action-packed. It's got angst-filled romance and life changing decisions. In short it's just awesome.

There aren't a lot of books that can make me laugh out loud, but this one had me embarrassing myself in the waiting room of the Toyota service center more than once.

Damien is one of the funniest characters I've come across in a long time. What makes him so great is his skewed way (to most us) of looking at the world. He was raised to be a villain and his take on "good deeds" and heroic actions are as fascinating as they are funny. It was a lot of fun to be inside his head as he tried to reconcile being a villain with being a good person.

While the story sounds deceptively high concept, there is a lot going on here. Damien struggles with the meaning of family, and how to love someone when they let you down, all while trying to figure out who he is and who he's going to be. All the main characters in this story are well-drawn and fleshed out. Damien's relationships with Kat, Sarah, his parents and newfound siblings are all realistic. As is the world of Golden City, a place where tourists visit with the hope of being mugged by a supervillain and saved by a superhero.

I could go on and on about how much I love this book, but that would keep you from going out and getting your own copy. What are you waiting for? Go! Now!

Cover: I think this cover is perfect despite the fact that if you read the book you'll know that that specific image would never happen. Still, I think it gives off that superhero (or supervillain) vibe and the comic book-like look lets you know it's not going to be all serious drama.

Writing: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Plot: 5/5

Overall Rating: 5/5

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Success - It's All About Attitude

Today I bring you a Note from the Universe to remind you that even when you're stuck in what feels like limbo, waiting for someone to request your ms, sign you as a client, or buy your book, you're not powerless. No matter how much it feels like someone (or something) else has all the control, only you have the power to create the life you live.

Here's what The Universe says about achieving your most daunting goals:

Invariably, when big dreams come true, and I mean BIG, there is a total metamorphosis of one's life. Their thoughts change, their words change, decisions are made differently, gratitude is tossed about like rice at a wedding, priorities are rearranged, and optimism soars.... Yeah, they're almost annoying.

You could have guessed all that, huh?

Would you have guessed that these changes, invariably, come before, not after, their dream's manifestation?

Isn't it amazing how sometimes things are so obvious but we never think about them that way?

The Universe has spoken! Now, go! Dream BIG!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Win a Critique of Your YA or MG Novel!

Editor and Author Deborah Halverson is celebrating the one month anniversary of her website by giving away a free critique of your completed YA or MG novel!

Go HERE for the details!

Ends April 14h.

Waiting on Wednesday 18 - Shade

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking The Spine. This week's choice is:

Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready - Release Date: May 6, 2010
Love ties them together. Death can't tear them apart.

Best. Birthday. Ever. At least, it was supposed to be. With Logan's band playing a critical gig and Aura's plans for an intimate after-party, Aura knows it will be the most memorable night of her boyfriend's life. She never thought it would be his last.

Logan's sudden death leaves Aura devastated. He's gone.

Well, sort of.

Like everyone born after the Shift, Aura can see and hear ghosts. This mysterious ability has always been annoying, and Aura had wanted nothing more than to figure out why the Shift happened so she can undo it. But not with Logan's violet-hued spirit still hanging around. Because dead Logan is almost as real as ever. Almost.

It doesn't help that Aura's new friend Zachary is so understanding--and so very alive. His support means more to Aura than she cares to admit.

As Aura's relationships with the dead and the living grow ever complicated, so do her feelings for Logan and Zachary. Each holds a piece of Aura's heart...and clues to the secret of the Shift.

I'm fascinated by the idea behind this book. It's like dystopian, but not. I want to know what the Shift is. I've had this book on my wishlist since last April. Can't wait to finally read it!

This is Jeri Smith-Ready's debut YA novel. She's written several adult Urban Fantasy books. Shade is on my debut authors challenge list. Is it on yours?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Review - Split by Swati Avasthi

Split by Swati Avasthi
4.5 out of 5 stars

Sixteen-Year-Old Jace Witherspoon arrives at the doorstep of his estranged brother Christian with a re-landscaped face (courtesy of his father’s fist), $3.84, and a secret.

He tries to move on, going for new friends, a new school, and a new job, but all his changes can’t make him forget what he left behind—his mother, who is still trapped with his dad, and his ex-girlfriend, who is keeping his secret.
At least so far.

Worst of all, Jace realizes that if he really wants to move forward, he may first have to do what scares him most: He may have to go back. First-time novelist Swati Avasthi has created a riveting and remarkably nuanced portrait of what happens after. After you’ve said enough, after you’ve run, after you’ve made the split — how do you begin to live again? Readers won’t be able to put this intense page-turner down.

While I wouldn't exactly call this an "intense page-turner", I really liked this book. Jace's voice is very authentic and so are the situations he finds himself in.

This book doesn't sugarcoat and I love that. There's no guarantee that everything is going to turn out perfectly after the book ends, but you have hope for all the characters.

My heart broke for Jace and his efforts to work through his issues on his own, while learning to trust other people. That his experiences have built up anger and fear to the point that he needs real help, just makes me like him more. I think it's a testament to Swati Avasthi's skill as a writer that when Jace's "secret" is revealed I still care about him without feeling manipulated to do so.

This book is honest and sometimes painful to read without ever being over the top. I was still thinking about Jace a couple days after I finished which to me, means it's a great book!

Cover: The cover is just eh, to me. The colors are dull and I don't think the keys really convey the depth and emotion of the book. It's kind of a cool looking image, but I don't think it would make me stop and pick up the book in the store. It might work well at getting boys to read it though, since there's nothing girly about it at all, which is a good thing.

Writing: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
Plot: 4/5

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Sunday, April 4, 2010

In My Mailbox - 19

In My Mailbox comes from Kristi at The Story Siren

The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea Campbell

WON - from Sara's March Madness Contest
The Awakening and The Struggle (The Vampire Diaries, #1-2) by L.J. Smith
The Fury and Dark Reunion (The Vampire Diaries, #3-4) by L.J. Smith
Nightfall (The Vampire Diaries: The Return, #1) by L.J. Smith

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien
Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken
Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder
Ice by Sarah Beth Durst
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Guardian of the Dead Winner!

The random number generator has spoken and the winner of Guardian of the Dead is:


Mardel I sent you an email. If I don't hear from you by Monday night I will choose a new winner.

I'm going to have a HUGE INTERNATIONAL GIVEAWAY when I reach 400 followers so spread the word! The sooner I hit 400 the sooner I have the contest!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

When Characters Know Best

My crit partner (and fellow Sister in Scribe) Kristi's excellent post on characters acting out of character got me thinking. While it's true that sometimes characters do something they normally wouldn't for a good reason, it's also true that sometimes we writers make our characters do things they know they shouldn't do, for no good reason at all. Most of the time, if we pay attention, our characters will tell us exactly that, it's up to us to listen and heed their warning.

We've all done it - had some great plot twist, or specific event that we needed to have happen no matter what. We made our characters get there, ignoring their protests along the way. What do I mean? How about an example!

Say you have a smart, feisty character, let's call her Veronica. Veronica is trying to solve the mystery of who killed her best friend. So far Veronica has done some sneaky spy-like investigating, racked up a bunch of clues, and run from a creepy guy who seemed to want to kill her too. Now it's time for the big reveal/fight for her life climax that you envisioned when you started this story. It starts when Veronica gets a phone call. A mysterious, very creepy, man, tells her to come to the woods alone at midnight and he will give her the evidence she needs to find out who killed her friend and put him in jail. After the call, Veronica's inner monologue goes something like this.

I have a bad feeling about that phone call. Only those stupid girls with big boobs and high heels in horror movies went out to the woods alone. He's probably going to kill me. I'm only 5'1", I don't have a weapon, and my cell phone doesn't get a signal out there. I know that if I go I'm as good as dead. I don't know why I don't call Logan to go out there with me, or why I wait until midnight and go out there by myself, but I do.

It sounds ridiculous doesn't it? As a reader you're wondering why would she be so stupid? Veronica is smart, resourceful and yet she's going to do something so out of character that even she recognizes it's a cliche and has no idea why she's doing it all for the sake of getting to the big action showdown sequence.

When your character says they don't know why they're doing something, or points out how cliche their actions are pay attention! It's your subconscious telling you that this plot point doesn't work. It means you're cutting corners, and cheating your readers out of a much more intense and exciting story.

In the example above, you would need to go back and ask yourself, Veronica's too smart to go just for a vague promise of information, so what would be enough to get her out there on her own? Have the caller hold her boyfriend hostage and threaten to kill him if she brings the police? Or if there's nothing that would get her out there by herself, what smart, resourceful thing would she do to protect herself? Notify the police and have them help her set up a sting?

With either of these options, you could still get that action-packed information reveal you'd been dreaming about, and you would have the added bonus of having your character act believably which always makes for a more satisfying story.

Don't get me wrong, this is not the same as a character not knowing why they feel a certain way. That goes along with Kristi's post. An action coming from an emotion, whether the character understands that emotion or not, is authentic. And when I say "no good reason" I don't mean the reason has to sensible, only that it has to make sense to the character. If Veronica wanted to go out to the woods by herself because she's a danger-junkie and loves the thrill, that would be fine. Stupid, but fine, as long as she knew that's why she was going and let us know that.

So the bottom line is, listen to your characters. If two of your characters have a conversation about how stupid something you're having them do is, chances are they (and your subconscious) are trying to tell you something.
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