Saturday, December 31, 2011

I'm sorry, I can't hear you... and my TOP READS of 2011!

The thing you need to understand is I have abnormally small ears.  Like tiny child ears.  I mean they work and everything (usually), but I still get ear infections (yes, as an adult) and they tend to get all clogged up. In a bizarre medical mishap on Thursday, my ear drum suffered some trauma as it was being irrigated and I have lost the hearing in my left ear.  I believe this will be temporary.  There was also a lot of pain and some embarrassing sobbing as I drove home, but after two days of being confined to bed with dizziness and pain, I have made it to the couch and am ready to share my favorite reads from 2011!!

In no particular order, here are the ten best YA/MG books I read for the first time in 2011:

Withering Tights (Misadventures of Tallulah Casey, #1)
1. WITHERING TIGHTS by Louise Rennison 
I LOVE LOVE her books.  In this one, she introduces a new main character, the adorable younger cousin of Georgia Nicolson, Tallulah Casey.
The Forest of Hands and Teeth (The Forest of Hands and Teeth, #1)
The scariest book I have read in years.  I had to sleep with the light on.  The two sequels were fantastic as well. All three are must reads.

Divergent (Divergent, #1)
3. DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth.
A champion entry into the dystopian genre.  Tris was one of my favorite female characters of the year.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Just so good.  So good.  I laughed and cried (a lot of both).

Anna and the French Kiss
5. ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins
As I mentioned in my previous post, this was my favorite contemporary novel of the year (yes, I know it came out in 2010, but I just read it).  The characters and romance were terrific.

Born at Midnight (Shadow Falls, #1)
6. BORN AT MIDNIGHT by C.C. Hunter
This and its sequel (AWAKE AT DAWN) were my favorite paranormal books of 2011 by a landslide.  This was one of those novels that I finished and immediately turned to page one to start again.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson
7. WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON by John Green and David Levithan
This book got its hooks into my heart in chapter one and held tight the entire way through.

The Son of Neptune (Heroes of Olympus, #2)
8. THE SON OF NEPTUNE by Rick Riordan
Percy Jackson is the boy I wish I knew in middle and high school. I could not contain my happiness that he returned in this new series.

9. SHELTER by Harlan Coben
My favorite mystery of 2011, by one of my favorite adult novelists- the masterful Harlan Coben.

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You (Gallagher Girls, #1)Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy (Gallagher Girls, #2)Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover (Gallagher Girls, #3)
10. THE GALLAGHER GIRL novels by Ally Carter
Okay, so this is cheating, but these four books were my FAVORITE overall of 2011 and since they are a series, I am combining them for one spot on my list.  I am counting the days until the 5th book in this series debuts in March!!

So, those are my favorites, if you haven't posted yours- feel free to leave them in the comments.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Best of 2011- Best YA Contemporary: Anna and the French Kiss

Anna and the French Kiss
Just right this second I decided I will join my fellow bloggers in setting out my favorites of 2011 (meaning when I read them, not necessarily when they were released), and I will start with my hands-down favorite contemporary novel.

It had been so long since I had read a truly wonderful truly contemporary (i.e. no paranormal, no dystopian, no fantasy, no mystery) YA novel, until I finally bought Stephanie Perkins' ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS a couple of weeks ago.  What can I say, but j'adore! I have recounted here that although I myself am an over-recommender, I often get resistant to reading books that are continually recommended to me (especially when its my dad doing the recommending- sorry dad, no excuse) and so although this book had been on my "to-read" list for the better part of the year, I didn't actually pick it up until December.

And I'm an idiot.  Books are lauded for a reason and this one was no different.

I loved this book.  To quote my sister, "I am so in love with St. Clair, I feel like I'm cheating."  This was everything that is wonderful about contemporary fiction and exactly what I feel like I've been missing since Steve Kluger's MY MOST EXCELLENT YEAR several years ago.  The characters, and most importantly their dialogue, felt so real and I was desperately involved with them from the opening pages.  All of the relationships- friendships, familial, and romantic were done perfectly.  And like my sister I can add Etienne St. Clair to the list of characters residing in my heart.

What were your contemporary favorites in 2011?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday: Ava's Holiday Gift

This is my first time participating in YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday! The prompt today is "What would be the ideal holiday present for your main character?" 

So, my main character is Ava from AN UNEXPECTED KINGDOM. She is a sixteen year-old who spends the first part of the book as a high school sophomore and the second part of the book as a sword-fighting savior of an entire country.  Clearly her gift requests from one year to the next would be pretty different.  As a result I am going to answer twice, once for Ava pre-destiny revelations and once for Princess Avanyarra (the fancey name for Ava after she goes to Leel). 
Pride and Prejudice

Ava's Gift:  First edition of Pride & Prejudice.  Since her mom and dad would not have the $85,000.00 that one went for, she would settle for this pretty cloth-bound version from Anthropologie.

Avanyarra's Gift:  Strong but flexible gloves to help protect against those pesky sword-related calluses (no link available!).


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Announcements that surprise no one: I did not complete NaNoWriMo

[sigh]  Oh well.

I am psyching myself up to rewrite my novel, AN UNEXPECTED KINGDOM, in the first person- you know: pep talks in the mirror, some face slapping, shots of whisky, jumping jacks, manic screaming, etc.  Since none of those things are doing the trick, I was very happy to find in my inbox a lovely post from Writer's Digest with advice (they call it "secrets", but it's really advice) from 90 best-selling authors.  Here are my three favorites, I hope they inspire you to write or rewrite too.
1. “We, and I think I’m speaking for many writers, don’t know what it is that sometimes comes to make our books alive. All we can do is to write dutifully and day after day, every day, giving our work the very best of what we are capable. I don’t think that we can consciously put the magic in; it doesn’t work that way. When the magic comes, it’s a gift.”
—Madeleine L’Engle

2. “Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.”
—Larry L. King

3. “I like to say there are three things that are required for success as a writer: talent, luck, discipline. … [Discipline] is the one that you have to focus on controlling, and you just have to hope and trust in the other two.”
—Michael Chabon

Oh, and this another important thing to keep in mind:
“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.”
—Harper Lee

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Just like that time I won the Boston Marathon

Despite the fact that I have largely ignored NaNoWriMo (I think I wrote on two days) and only put forth a measly 3,500 words or so, there is a part of me that still believes I will finish and have 50,000 words completed on Wednesday.  Delusions of grandeur are not completely new to me.  I hate running, I have not been a real athlete since Clinton was President, and in one very embarrassing episode a few years ago I finished a 5K literally tenth to last behind a woman who looked like a poor man's Bette Midler and was wearing denim shorts.  HOWEVER, I still entertain the fleeting thought every once and a while that I just may win the Boston Marathon should I ever actually run it.  Spoiler alert- this will never happen.

In other news (of the actual writing kind), I think I am going to rewrite AN UNEXPECTED KINGDOM in the first person.  I think this is the roadblock that has kept it from getting to the level I've been hoping for (and maybe imagining it to be).  Big undertaking, right?  Gah!  But also (maybe) yay!

Finally, here is my favorite photo of me from our Ireland trip this summer.  It has nothing to do with anything, but it makes me feel creative and happy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Holiday Blog Hop- Our Christmas Story

Thank you to everyone participating in our Holiday Blog Hop.  Jenny and I are excited to share our story and read everyone's entries.  Our story is in two parts, the first half, written by me, is below and the second, written by my friend Jenny Morris is on her blog.  You will also find the list of all participants there so you can read their entries.  And away we go!

It was lunchtime on the 22nd of December when Violet and Sophia opened their front door in response to the chime of the doorbell. Sitting on the step was not a person, nor anything that could have rung the bell at all. Instead there was a plain brown box standing as high as Violet's ten-year-old knees and wider than Sophia could reach her arms.

The box had not come through the mail. There were no stamps and no address. The only thing adorning the top of the box was a small white label that read, “Violet age 10, Sophia age 8”. On the side of the box in huge block letters were two words written in black ink: “Kaffeklubben Island”.

Violet put a finger to her lips to quiet the chatter she knew Sophia was dying to share and pointed towards the kitchen where their mother was listening to the radio while she baked. Sophia nodded and the two girls started to drag the box inside. They managed to wrangle it down the hall and into the bedroom they shared where Violet immediately logged on to the computer. Tap, tap, tap went the keyboard as Violet typed. “Tell me what’s going on!” Sophia begged, but Violet didn’t answer her. Violet loved Sophia, but she could be so little sister-y sometimes. Suddenly Violet turned around and said quietly, “I knew it!” She turned the computer so Sophia could see too.

“Kaffeklubben Island is the closest land mass to the North Pole.”

Hop to Jenny's Blog for part two. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

What book are you most thankful for?

Beth Revis, amazing author of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, is hosting the best giveaway ever and all you have to do is talk about the book for which you are most grateful.  How easy is that?
Hmm, actually kind of hard.  I went in and stared at my bookshelves and thought for a while.  There are an incredible number of books that have made a huge impression on me for one reason or another.  Instead of choosing my favorite book (Robin McKinley's THE BLUE SWORD) or one of the tons of books that have touched me in different ways, I am going to write about the book I have had on my bookshelf the longest. 
I got I WANT TO GO HOME by Gordon Korman through Troll Book Order (does everyone remember how awesome that was?) in the fourth grade.  It has been dropped in the bathtub, sneezed on, spilled on, loaned out and returned, thrown, kicked, and cried on. Every page corner has been folded down (both ways) and a dog took a little bite out of the front cover.  I loved reading long before fourth grade, but this book was the first one that made me laugh out loud and want to share the joke with my classmates.  I am thankful for this book for letting me know that books can be hilarious and that reading can be a social activity if you are willing to share the magic with others.

Friday, November 4, 2011

I go for MEGA SIZE!

I have signed up for this challenge on The Eclectic Bookshelf, which I found via Michelle at Book Briefs.  There are four levels of participation and I am going for GOLD, the MEGA SIZE YA Reading Challenge- 50 or more books in 2012.  Bam!  I will try to get my list together by mid-December and I hope some of my friends and followers will read some of the same novels so we can discuss.
What are you waiting for?  Go sign up!!  You do not need to be a blogger to participate.
Happy Friday! I am pumping myself up to have a big NaNoWriMo weekend.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Holiday Blog Hop

In celebration of Blogging Buddies and critique partners everywhere, I have teamed up with one of my favorite writing people, Jenny S. Morris from Jenny’s Imaginary World to host a Blog Hop.  Jenny is my amazing critique partner and a wonderful writer.  Since she is waaaaaaay smarter than I am, she is handling the whole signing up part of the hop (as well as cute poster creation duties).
With the winter holidays just around the corner, we thought it would be fun to write holiday stories. To participate, just pick your favorite holiday (any will do) and post a story of around 250 words.  We are going for short and sweet so that we can all read each entry.  To make it even more exciting, write your story with a partner (Jenny and I are writing together) and each post half of the story on your blogs.  If you do enter with a partner, the story can be about 500 words.

So, head on over to Jenny’s blog, sign up on the Linky List, and grab the poster to put on your blog. Post your story on your blog on November 15th, and you will be entered to win one of four amazing books.  Woo! There will be four winners, chosen by random selection. Happy writing!  

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy NaNoWriMo Eve! (and Halloween)

First off, here is a photo of me in my costume.  I am dressed as my dog, Boston.  I think it's pretty good actually.  She went dressed as me.  My other dog Annie was a 100 year-old cedar tree.  We don't know why she chose that.  Annie's a bit weird.

I am actually not that in to Halloween beyond watching "It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" every year.  LOVE it!  I don't like being scared, except while reading books (even then I leave a lot of lights on).  BUT what I do like is National Novel Writing Month, which starts tomorrow!

I am going to make a new tab on this site just for THE GUARDIANS OF BEN Q. FLANDERS and I will track my progress this month on that page.  I am really excited!!!

PS: The most beautiful bride in the history of the world (better known as my sister Caitlin) got married on Saturday and I made it through my toast without breaking into sobs!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

On my bookshelf: my favorite YA/MG novels from adult authors

Could you follow that title?  I tried several times to make it less confusing, but each attempt ended up more convoluted, so here we are.  In honor of the wonderful SHELTER by Harlan Coben, a fantastically successful writer of mysteries for adults (I adore his Myron Bolitar novels), I am listing the best YA and MG novels littering my shelves from writers who usually write for adults.  These are all writers whose adult novels I read as well, so that criterion eliminated some books from contention. 

1. Peter Abrahams:  DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE (and the rest of the Echo Falls Mysteries) and REALITY CHECK

2. Harlan Coben: SHELTER

3. Carl Hiaasen:  HOOT, FLUSH, and SCAT

4.  Stephen King:  THE EYES OF THE DRAGON

What are your favorite children's novels from adult writers?

Monday, October 24, 2011

I am officially a NaNoWriMo 2011 participant- alert the press

Despite my extremely lackluster performance as a 2009 National Novel Writing Month participant, I am giving it another shot.  This November, I will try to complete a first draft of my (totally stalled) work in progress, The Guardians of Ben Q. Flanders

I am pretty excited and hope, hope, hope that I can stick to it.

P.S.- Look who is rockin' 50 followers!  Huge shout out to number 50 the very cool E.R. King!!  I would whistle if I could.  I'll settle for a woooo hooo.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Confessions of an Unpublished Children's Writer

I read a post over at YA Highway from Kody Keplinger entitled The True Confessions of a Multi-Published Author.  So, I decided to reveal some confessions of my own. 

1.  I don't own an e-reader and I don't want to.  I am obsessed with the physicality of books and it kills me to think that they may soon be relics- that I may soon be a relic like those crazy people who still have answering machines or butter churns.  I am aware that holding on tightly to my paper books could make it more difficult for me to achieve my writing dreams, but I am holding fast.

2. I read so fast that I often don't enjoy a book the first time through because there is no time to savor it.  But, I can't slow myself down.  Books are my drug.  Luckily I am a huge re-reader (and book hoarder, I need to own books) so I get to spent more time with a book the second, third, fourth time through.

3. Happily ever after is one of my favorite phrases of all time.  I am a happy ending kind of girl.  I know it is not cool or edgy to admit that, but this is confession time, right?

4. Some days I think my writing is really good.  There are times when I read my stuff and think, "This is as good as most of what is in the bookstore right now.  I could totally make it as a writer."  I laugh at the right parts, cry at the right parts, and find a pleasing rhythm to my words.

5. Many days I think my writing sucks.  I can pick any page at random and find nothing on it that works.  These days are frustrating and if too many of them come in a row, it leads to a few weeks of non-writing. 

6.  It makes me sad that I can't get to the elusive 50th follower.  Really world?  Not ONE MORE PERSON could hit that button?  49 followers sounds so lame.  Laaaaaaaame.

What are your writing confessions?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Life got in the way

Oh gosh- it's been so long since I've posted.  For my, umm, dozens of readers, please accept my sincere apologies.  As my title says, work and life have gotten in the way of my blogging and writing.  Here are a few random things that I've been up to or thinking about:

1. I've read a few really good books in the past couple of weeks: SON OF NEPTUNE by Rick Riordan (I love, love, love Percy Jackson), MATCHED by Ally Condie (chilling and cool), and THE AMULET OF SAMARKAND by Jonathan Stroud (surprisingly biting wit and great fantasy).

2. I had my entire manuscript for AN UNEXPECTED KINGDOM read by my wonderful crit partner, Jenny, who usually reads my WIP (Ben Q.) and she provided some really excellent feedback.  I have to take some long deep breaths (the kind that take a few weeks) before really pulling it all apart.  It was incredibly helpful, and I believe, necessary, to have someone read the entire novel and then give me more of a review than crit comments.  The exercise helped me gain insight into the crit comments from my other C.P. Rena, who has given me extensive comments on my first few chapters.  Big virtual hugs to both my C.P.s.  For a funny look at what writers go through after getting critique, check out this post by JEFritz.

3. My dog Annie will not stop crying and my dog Boston will not stop pooping in the house when we go to work.  I know Cesar Milan would tell me it's my fault, but I'm at a loss in both cases.  Awesome.

4. I am dying to get my hands on AWAKE AT DAWN by C.C. Hunter!  I am supposed to be cutting back my book spending and it's so hard.

5. Who else is loving new shows, The Secret Circle and Revenge??

6. My baby sister gets married in two weeks.  Odds that I sob through my speech?  10-1 in favor.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rendition of my blog's theme song

My husband found this video on YouTube of my blog's theme song being played by the coolest beatboxing flautist you have ever seen.  (Who else could die over the word "flautist"? LOVE it.)  It really starts jamming about 30 seconds in.  

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Friendship in KidLit is important

On Saturday I was able to spend a huge chunk of time catching up with two long-time girlfriends.  17 years after graduating from high school (oh wow, I just did that math- OLD) my best childhood friends are still my best friends.  Of course the realities of life mean that we don't get together as often as we would like, and we no longer know every detail about the others' days, but we've been through so much together and known each other for so long that our friendship base holds strong. 
Like any good writing nerd, I looked to see how I would relate my Saturday to my writing or YA/MG literature in general.  In thinking about friendship while scanning my bookshelves, I realized how many fewer YA novels have a friendship as the major relationship, as opposed to a romantic one.  As lovely and compelling as romance at that age can be, I adamantly feel that your childhood friends have a much deeper and lasting impact on your character and your life than boyfriends/girlfriends from that same age. 

So, why does romance rule this genre?  I don't know the exact answer and it's Sunday so I don't want to think too hard.  Instead I am highlighting some of my favorite friendships appearing on my bookshelf and that are a main component of the novel.
1. Harry, Ron, and Hermione from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.  Seven years of the kind of friendship I hope my kids will have someday (with or without magic).
2. Cammie, Bex, Liz, and Macey from the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter. Talk about supporting your friends- spies in training give new meaning to the phrase!
3. Augie and T.C. from My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger. Augie and T.C. decided that they were brothers in the second grade and they stuck to that level of closeness right on through high school.
4. John, Jack, and Charles from The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series by James A. Owen.  Even though the characters are men, not kids, I think the adventure that is the basis for the formation of this friendship is youthful and incredibly magical.
5. Isi and Enna from The Goose Girl and Enna Burning by Shannon Hale.  These are two of my favorite characters in the entire YA genre.  Their friendship is such an important part of these novels because they literally need each other in order to balance their speaking (their powers) out.
6. Cassie, Lydia, and Emily from The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty. They will lie, manipulate, and scheme for each other.  How can you not love that?

What are your favorite YA/MG friendships?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Three things that are NOT my revisions

Revisions are not happening today (and they didn't yesterday either, sigh) but here are three things I wanted to share.

1. Here is one of the photos (maybe the most fun) from my recent trip to Ireland.  We don't know why Peter thinks so little of himself.  We did not end up going to see him that night, but I am sure he was not, in fact, a Dud.

2. I paid a visit to my local library this evening and picked up a few books that are on my GOODREADS "To-Read" List including The Giver by Lois Lowry, Shrimp and Cupcake by Rachel Cohn, and Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld.

3. When I was at Grub Street's Muse and the Marketplace conference in the Spring I wrote and submitted a short short to an online literary magazine.  The piece was not accepted for publication, but I do like it and thought I would share it here.  It's called Last Ride:

There was something indecent in the way she drank her soda, the way her lips wrapped around the bottle top sucking out the root beer.  It made me angry watching her and a little bit almost turned on.  She took her last sip as we were boarding the 36 bus and I thought the driver was going to wet his pants.  I thought I would say something to her about it.  A snarky comment that would hurt her feelings just a little.  But she turned to me just then as we were sitting down and smiled her radiant smile and told me how much she was going to miss me this summer.  I told her I would miss her too.  She meant it. 

We had been best friends for five years, a long time when you are 14.  It was the last day of school.  Tonight she was leaving to spend the summer with her grandparents and I was staying here.  I knew already that our friendship would not last until the fall; not for the reason everyone may think- that she was beautiful and I was not and high school didn’t work that way.  No, not exactly.  She would stick by me.  She was like that.  It was me.  My affection for her would always have to compete with my jealousy and I knew the day was quickly coming when jealousy would always come out on top.  It had just about arrived.

The ride to my stop took exactly 13 minutes.  I held her hand- this was the last day we were still young enough to do that.  I watched our reflections in the window and drank in her beauty.  I would miss being this close to it.

As we got closer I started to cry.  She thought I was crying because we would be separated for the summer and she began to cry too.  I was crying because I would have to spend the summer trying to forget all the good things about being her friend and because I would miss her almost as much as I wouldn’t.

The bus stopped and we hugged, saying our iloveyous through tears.  The sunlight was hitting the windows as the bus pulled away and I could not see her waving but I knew she was.  Of course she was.  She was the good friend.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

My very own Mary Sue

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I am undertaking pretty large-scale revisions on An Unexpected Kingdom, based in large part on advice from my critique partner, Rena.  (Thank you, Rena!)  The critique point that required the most change was one that, while difficult to hear, confirmed a worry that was lingering at the back of my mind: namely, that Ava (my main character) is a bit of a Mary Sue.  In case it isn't clear- that is a bad thing.  A Mary Sue means slightly different things to different people but the basic definition is a character that is entirely too good (good at everything, liked by everyone, special beyond all measure, etc.).  It is generally acknowledged to be a common flaw with inexperienced writers and is often said to be a representation of the person the writer wishes he or she could be.  So, YIKES!  Now, Ava is not the worst of what a Mary Sue can be.  In fact, I took a test, The Original Fiction Mary-Sue Litmus Test, and only scored a 49 of which the test said: 36-55 points: Mary-Sue. Your character needs some work in order to be believable. But despair not; you should still be able to salvage her with a little effort. Don't give up. 
The thing is, and the reason I have been so resistant to altering Ava, is that she is based on an actual person who truly is that great (beautiful, sweet, incredibly smart, talented at everything she does).  Ava is not my cousin Annie, but that is where the inspiration came from and so it seems strange to now pull back and say, "no one is that wonderful", because occasionally people are; Annie is.  BUT, what Rena made me realize is that I can have Ava a generally wonderful kid (although some slight alterations are necessary), but realistically not everyone will like her- because that is truth.  No one is universally liked.  So: revise, revise, revise.  I am procrastinating like you wouldn't believe.  But I don't want to make rookie mistakes, so revise I must.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bout of Books Read-A-Thon Recap

As midnight struck on Day 7 of the Bout of Books read-a-thon (it didn't really strike so much as turn in red numbers on my alarm clock), I finished my ninth book, Paper Towns by John Greene.  This of course means that I failed to reach my goal of ten books in a week (boo Megan!).  However, given that the week was also my first week at a new job, I don't feel too badly about it. 

Here are my final numbers:
# of books read:  9
# of pages read:  2,803

The three books I read yesterday were: Nobody's Princess by Esther Friesner, Gingerbread by Rachel Cohn, and Paper Towns by John Green.  I had a lot of fun and hope all the other participants did too!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bout Of Books Days 5 & 6

As Day 7 of my read-a-thon begins, I have four books left to reach my goal.  This very rainy day is giving me that chance- it is doable as I am lucky enough to read very fast, but I will have to tear myself away from CNN's weather coverage, which is addictive.  Here is my update from the past two days:

# of books read since last post (Day 4- Thursday):  3
# of books read total:  6
# of pages read since last post:  1,021
# of pages read total:  2,030
Books read since last post:  If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where's My Prince? by Melissa Kantor (Cute contemporary YA), Bones of a Feather by Carolyn Haines (Fun, Well-plotted Mystery- Adult), and Born At Midnight by C.C. Hunter (EXCELLENT YA- I loved this!!!)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A title to die for

The current issue of Writer's Digest magazine landed in my mailbox yesterday and, as usual, I immediately turned to my favorite section, "Breaking In".  It highlights upcoming works from debut authors and features mini-interviews where they explain how they got published.  In this issue, my eyes were immediately drawn to the title of Michelle Hodkin's debut YA novel, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer.  I am in awe of that title.  L-O-V-E.  I would buy that book on the title alone.  In thinking about this a little further, I must admit that although I do research books and read reviews, oftentimes I make my purchases are based on title and/or the book's cover.  I had the title of An Unexpected Kingdom in mind the day the story started percolating in my brain.  I know it's dangerous to be so married to a title since an agent or publisher may make you change it, but I am very attached [hugs manuscript].  As for other books, I took a scan at my bookshelves and here are just a few of my favorite titles:

The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen
Enna Burning by Shannon Hale
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

How must stock do you put in titles?  What are some of your favorites?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day 4: Falling behind- can rain save me?

I have just finished Need by Carrie Jones and I liked it a lot.  It felt like a less-angsty Twilight in some ways- NOT derivative, but it made me the same type of happy- cool premise, fun love story, otherworldly beings living in plain sight.  Unfortunately for my read-a-thon numbers, that is all I have read today so my total books read is only at three.  Next, I plan to start If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where's My Prince? by Melissa Kantor.  The good news for my read-a-thon schedule is Hurricane Irene.  We certainly won't be going anywhere this weekend, so I can read to my heart's content and hopefully hit my goal of 10 books for the week by the end of the day on Sunday.

Official Update for Day 4 of Bout of Books Read-A-Thon:
# of books read since last post: .816
# of books read total: 3
# of pages read since last post: 249
# of pages read total: 1,009

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wednesday is a slow day- Day 3 read-a-thon update

I finished Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children after dinner and it was truly a magnificently written novel.  It did not read as YA to me, even though the protagonist is a teenager.  It has a very mature writing style.  Whatever category is has been sold in though- it is very, very good.  Strange and exciting and effortless.  I have just started Need by Carrie Jones.  I am only to page 57 and won't finish it tonight.  I'm just too tired to stay up late. 

Official Day 3 Update:
# of books read today: .453 (.186 of Need plus .267of Miss Peregrine)
# of books read total:  2.186
# of pages read since yesterday's post:  150
# of pages read total:  760

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tuesday (day 2) Bout of Books read-a-thon update

At close to the end of Day 2 of my reading marathon, I am just about at my daily goal.  I am on page 255 of 348 of the truly wondrous Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children.  I also managed to hit my local library after work and I checked out eight books and placed a request for one more through an inter-library loan.  That requested book is a novel from my new Goodreads friend, Lisa Bork, who writes mysteries and whose first book, For Better, For Murder was a 2009 Agatha Award finalist for Best First Novel.  Exciting!  Of the eight books I brought home, only one had been on my to-read list (Paper Towns by John Green), but six others are fun-looking YA (including Need by Carrie Jones) and the last is a quick-read mystery, which I love.  And now for my official progress:

# of books read today (day 2):  .733
# of books read total:  1.733
# of pages read today:  255
# of pages read total:  610

Not bad for only reading at night.  See all you BoutOfBooksters tomorrow!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday Read-A-Thon update

I am exhaus--  Sorry, I dropped off there for a second.  Whew!  I am exhausted.  I had forgotten how tiring a first day at a new job can be, especially with hardly any sleep the night before.  I am reading 13 Treasures by Michelle Harrison and am on page 147.  It is an upper Middle Grade novel focusing on Tanya's reluctant trip to her grandmother's country estate and the dark mystery she uncovers.  I am heading to bed soon and will read the rest with my head on the pillow.  So, my official update as of 10:30PM on Monday, August 22 is:
Number of books I’ve read today:  .414 of a book (thank you phone calculator)
Total number of books I’ve read:  .414 of a book
On tap for tomorrow:  hit the library for more books, read Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bout of Books READ-A-THON

Readers unite!  Amanda from On a Book Bender decided to host a read-a-thon this coming week, just for fun.  Love it.  Although not an ideal week for me since I start a new job tomorrow (yay) and am getting over being sick (boo), not to mention that I have a lot of work to do on my writing/revisions, I am p-s-y-c-h-e-d (why, yes, I was a high school cheerleader!).  My goals for my week in the read-a-thon are:

1. Read a minimum 10 books, at least eight of which are MG or YA.
2. Get the majority of the books from the library (my husband's rule).
3. Keep my fellow read-a-thoners (is this a word?  it is now) updated on my progress as I'm sure everyone awaits my news with bated breath.

I did buy two books from my to-read shelf this afternoon (prompting my husband's library rule): 13 Treasures by Michelle Harrison and Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.  I will read these two first and get the remainder from the library tomorrow or Tuesday night.  The read-a-thon starts tomorrow and goes through Sunday.  Let's! Get! Reading!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The land was green and lovely

I am pretty sure that is the start of an Irish song, but if it isn't, it certainly should be.  Wow! 
Well, clearly I am back from my trip to Ireland and it was amazing.  It was fun and gorgeous and inspirational and I drove on the wrong side of the road.  Really, what more can one ask for in a vacation?  (If I were nitpicking, I suppose one could ask for Diet Coke to taste the same as it does at home, but other than that- GRAND.)  My thoughts are still more than can be lucidly written about, so please pardon my stream of consciousness ramblings.  Life is so unhurried there that it took me a whole day to stop feeling like someone was playing a trick on us.  My sister, Caitlin, is the fastest walker on earth and she looked insane compared to the meandering locals.  Caitlin and her betrothed are wonderful travel companions and we were so lucky to be with them (right up until they got the super flu, but even then they didn't give it to us- so cheers!).
There are so many cows.  And they are all laying down!  We were amazed by this.  Cows in the U.S. (I started calling it America three days in because that is what you do there) stand up, at least the ones I have seen.  I guess our cows have more pressing matters to attend to.  Or they are all anxious.  We even saw horses laying down.  I thought they were dead.  They weren't; they were having a rest.  Dogs just walk across main roads by themselves.  I know I am going on and on about animals, which is weird, but really there were a lot of animals.  The proprietor of our first B&B (in Galway) is an Elvis impersonator and he comes to the U.S. regularly to perform at weddings in the southern states.  We were all baffled by this for several reasons, the main one being that there is no shortage of American Elvis impersonators, but a close second was the fact that having a thick brogue means you don't sound much like Elvis.  My favorite day was the one we spent on the smallest of the three Aran Islands where we rode rented bicycles around all day. My favorite meal was a lunch we had at a pub we found in the middle of a rainstorm in the tiny south coastal town of Glandore.  My cousin got married near the end of our trip outside Dublin and both she and it were lovely beyond words.
While I did not have a lot of free time to write (or revise), I did a lot of reflecting and was able to reform some key parts of An Unexpected Kingdom in my head.  I am working on getting those revisions down on paper this week.  I will expand on that in another post.  For now, I need to continue the unending cycle of post-vacation laundry.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


The day is here!  By the time the sun is setting over Boston I will be soaring through the sky on my way to Shannon, Ireland.  Unbelievably, this is my very first trip to Europe (and my husband's as well).  Our passports are very stiff and unadorned.  Luckily, we will have some very seasoned international travelers with us in the form of my sister and her almost-husband. We will be staying in Galway, Kinsale, and Kildare/ Dublin.  Towards the end of the trip is my cousin's wedding- she is marrying an Irish gentleman (bloke?) and quite a few members of my family are making the trip, including my parents who we are not traveling with us due to my dad's insistence on fishing, golfing, and horseback riding, none of which any of us like to do (including, I should note, my mother who WILL be traveling with him).  I will be driving a stick shift (which I have not done in at least ten year).  While sitting on the opposite side of the car.  On the wrong side of the road.  Hmmm.  Potential for disaster is high.
One thing I am not taking a vacation from is writing.  I have major revisions to do on An Unexpected Kingdom and this is a perfect way to force myself to start them.  It is hard to kill your darlings, which is why I find revision to be MUCH more difficult than writing.  I will also be doing some writing (yay) on The Guardians of Ben Q. Flanders.  I had been thinking for a while that adding a change of location to the middle of the book would help move along the story and Alice's character arc so I am thinking I may have them go to Ireland.  By sheer coincidence (no it's not) I will be in Ireland, so I can do research and jot down notes as we travel (at least until it gets too annoying for my companions).  I hope to have lots to share upon my return.  Erin go braugh!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Loving someone else's book...

Makes you love writing even more.  You want to create characters and plot and scenery that evokes the same gleeful feeling you get when you read a new great novel.  On that note, here are eight things that I loved about Wildefire by Karsten Knight, which I purchased yesterday at the lovely Brookline  Booksmith and read today in between walks with the doggies and a trip to the gym (kill me).  I will also put a one-sentence review up on that page by tomorrow. 
1.  The GORGEOUS cover.  It is a wow cover, and unlike a lot of covers on the market today (good or bad) it actually does evoke the story itself.
2. A wonderfully written female protagonist, Ashline Wilde - and she was written by a guy!  I prefer to identify with the main character; I need to like him or her.  A lot of really good books have characters who exist in perpetual shades of gray and so you find yourself unable to truly warm to them.  I can appreciate those stories, but a book only sings to me when I adore the person whose story I am experiencing.
3. The character names were so fun and varied- Ashline is a name I've never heard before and it's so pretty.  The names were a mix of common and completely unusual- Bobby Jones meet Colt Halliday.
4. This is a debut novel from a local author (Karsten Knight lives in Boston just like me!) and knowing that gives me hope.  Also, his agent is Mary Kole, who did not sign me, but sent me a really nice email.  Yay for nice emails!
5.  There are a lot of characters but all of them felt well-rounded and had purpose.  I did not feel like there were any throwaway scenes or characters- they all advanced the story and I felt like I knew enough about each one to care about his or her place in the novel.  Also, the characters did not simply fall into predictable patterns (hello- especially on the last page!!), but neither were they studies in contradiction.  Some characters had surprising revelations, but nothing happened that had me scratching my head thinking, that was out of character
6. The teenaged characters seemed like teenagers.  Sure, some of them turned out to actually be gods and goddesses reincarnated, but still- they swore, they drank, they had moods- they were teens.  The fact that Ash still cared about winning a tennis match despite things like just finding out she was a volcano goddess was wonderful.  I like it when an urban fantasy keeps its non-fantasy elements very realistic.  I think it makes the fantasy portion of the story pop that much more.
7. This line:  "This is kind of like a really shitty version of The Breakfast Club, huh?" Hee and swoon!
8. It's a great story plain and simple (although nothing about the book is either of those things).  It felt fresh and exciting and I devoured it.  The ending certainly left the door wide open for a second novel so I wait with bated breath for the continued story of Ash Wilde

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Clichés can make you cry, but then feel okay

A post from Steph Sinkhorn over at MaybeGenius has had my mind racing all week.  She has done a series of posts on clichés in different types of Young Adult Lit and a tweet from The Intern led me to this post on clichés in YA fantasy.  I urge you to read her post, the whole series of them in fact, but to summarize- Steph writes that she reads a lot of YA and she wants to highlight some of the more common clichés authors use in various genres.  She is explicit in her intent, "The goal with this series is not to ridicule, but to inform and inspire a break from the usual in today's literature."  Great, right?  Well, the reason this particular post has led to even more sleepless nights than usual is that I, in fact, DO have several of these clichés in An Unexpected Kingdom (concept of The Chosen One, princess who doesn't know it yet, special powers released at moment of coming of age (sort of), just-plain-evil villain).  For those who are capable of high-level mathematics, that means that of the 12 clichés mentioned in the post, my novel has one-third of them!  So, how do I feel about this?  First I felt sad, defeated, and sort of embarrassed.  Then I felt defiant.  That lasted about 30 minutes before I slipped into a depression.  Why write if I cannot bring anything unique or special into this world?  The depression lasted most of last week (that combined with Blogger's non-cooperation resulted in no new posts) and now I feel a jumble of things.  Resigned for sure.  Yes, I have some clichés in my writing but I am not ready to scrap my novel so I will continue to have these clichés for as long as I write about Ava.  Some readers won't like my novel(s) as a result.  That stings, but that's also just how it goes.  I feel hopeful, because I spent two hours sitting in front of my beloved bookshelves and looking at all the novels I love that make these clichés work.  Finally, I feel grateful. These are things that I need to keep in mind while I create.  I don't want to be cookie-cutter or derivative.  I want to write good stories that people will read and like (or better yet- love!).  To do that, I need to be mindful of clichés, even if I cannot and will not completely avoid them.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Meet my Critique Partners!

Three things for Friday:
1. Lately instead of using any regular old curse word I have taken to exclaiming, "blogger!", both because it makes me laugh and because Blogger has been infuriating.  My pages take ages to load and I am unable to post comments, even on my own posts.  (So, Jenny and Rena look for the answer to your question at the end of this post.)
2. I stayed up until nearly 4:00AM revising the first two chapters of An Unexpected Kingdom.  Admittedly and naively, I thought that since I was in a query-ready place that there were not large-scale revisions to be made (until an editor at a publishing house got his/her hands on it).  THEN I got some wonderful criticism from CP Rena that will not change my story but will change the ease with which readers understand Ava.  Thus the late night/early morning.
3. Now that I have received official permission, meet my two new Critique Partners Rena and Jenny!  For ease, we can pair them with a theme from their novels- so Rena= dragons, Jenny= angels.  Rena (rhymes with Bean-a) is my YA CP.  Her novel is From the Blood of Dragons and here is a short summary:  Allyson just found out she's half dragon, and someone is kidnapping people descended from mythical creatures, using their innate abilities to power a super army. With her best friend, a half troll named Beth, Allyson sets out across the southwestern US to track down the kidnappers and free their friends.  Jenny will be critiquing Ben Q. and a quick summary of her The Guardian Tribe: Kella never tells anyone what she is, a freak, to be dissected. She did once and her drug addict mom went crazy. Her secret…her best friend, Gabrielle, is her guardian angel. That’s not all, Kella can fuse her body to Gabrielle’s angelic form and they become one being. Words never pass between them, only feelings and powers. These angelic powers allow Kella to fly, kick the crap out of boys, and sometimes bring people back from the brink of death.  I am really excited to work with them and to continue to read these two novels!   **To answer Rena and Jenny's question my life has not been exciting as maybe my profile makes it seem (sad but true).  My jobs as a lifeguard and a waitress overlapped (long ago) and my jobs as a waitress and attorney overlapped (more recently), but it seemed catchier to put them in the order I did.**

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A lone ship no more

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had tried unsuccessfully in the past to join a critique group (my pathetic attempts will once again not be chronicled for your amusement) and that I felt a critique partner (CP) or group could help me improve my craft.  So thanks to the wonderful ladies over at WriteOnCon, I was able to connect with not one, but two wonderful writers who I think are going to be my CPs!  I exchanged chapters with both writers (they both happen to be women- but I don't want to talk about them here until I have their permission to do so) and we did critiques of each others' work and talked (and by talked I mean emailed) generally about what we are looking for in a CP.  I ended up connecting with both writers so one is going to be my critique partner for An Unexpected Kingdom and hopefully beyond with my YA work and the other is going to critique my MG work in progress, The Guardians of Ben Q. Flanders.  I enjoyed reading the first chapters of both of their novels and am excited to help both of them make their work shine.  Yay for critique partners!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bossing Myself Around

I tell myself to buckle down, to get to work, to stop messing around.  "Enough is enough!" I admonish.  I mentally cajole, lecture, and yell.  All to no avail.  I just won't listen.  There are all types and causes of writer's block and I guess unless you have physically lost the use of your hands, they are all psychological.  I am suffering from a motivational writer's block.  My story isn't going poorly, I'm not frustrated by my characters, I am just not writing despite my best efforts to force myself to do so.  Confused yet?  How can I both be the one telling myself to write and not writing?  Well, I'm confused too.  I am bossy.  Ask my husband.  Like bossy people the world over, I never thought I was bossy until presented with incontrovertible evidence (trust me), so now I am an admitted bossy boss.  However, the person who is most resistant to be bossed around by me is.... me.  It is so frustrating.  I am so frustrating.  Is this what it is like to have a teenager?  If the whining thus far was not clue enough, I did not write at the library yesterday.  I went to the library.  I read a book instead.  I then checked out a whole bagful and last night I read instead of writing again.  The good news is that I stumbled onto a really great series and read the first three books in one sitting.  The series revolves around the attendees of the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, which is a boarding school for future spies.  So cool, right?  Well, it's even better than it sounds because author Ally Carter has managed to do what no writer has done for me since JK Rowling- create a world that I absolutely want to inhabit.  Just like I wished I could turn back the clock and be eleven again so that I could receive my acceptance letter to Hogwarts via owl post, I have a similar longing to be a Gallagher Girl.  This brings to mind something I maybe lost sight of a bit in the past few months- why I write.  I write because I love to read and I hope that my novels will make someone feel the way I do when I read a book I love.  And there are a lot of different great feelings there- it can just be an utter appreciation of the crafting of a story (Henry Neff's The Tapestry series or the recently read The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan), the joy of truly fun adventure (all of Rick Riordan's books), awe (The Hunger Games trilogy), agonizing heartache (Bastard Out of Carolina is one blazing example), and so many more.  In short, I want to write and if I can't boss myself out of this motivational block, maybe I can read myself out of it because reminders of why I want to write are all around me.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Oh Blogger!

For some reason Blogger is not being very cooperative lately and I have not been able to post or add items to my other pages.  I must admit I have not taken such setbacks in stride (bit of swearing).  I have been trying to get my latest one-sentence review up, and I liked this book so much, I will put it here in the post as well.  The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan: "A completely cool title is not the only amazing thing about this novel, I would not have predicted that such a literary and carefully-crafted work could come from a zombie story but, wow it sure did and the result was that I had to sleep with the light on."  This review and many more can be found on the One-Sentence Reviews page.  I am sitting here this morning waiting for my local library to open because I am going to try writing there today.  I have just not gotten back into the groove these past few weeks and am hoping that a relocation will spur results.  I will report on my success or lack of it later today.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Finishing that thought

This post can be alternately titled "Here's hoping follow-through can develop with age".  Sunday evening I was at my parents' house and (at my mother's behest) was going through some boxes of my junk in the basement.  Nestled among the debris I came across a partial manuscript of a novel (humorous chick lit, written at the height of the Bridget Jones era, entitled Random Rantings of the Possibly Seriously Disturbed) that I had started while in law school 11 or 12 years ago.  I had completely forgotten about it and was both excited and nervous to read it.  The good news is that it was funny.  Intentionally, not like when I had "pubic" instead of "public" on page 51 of An Unexpected Kingdom. The bad news is that it was all over the place.  Hardly a single thought was complete.  It was clear that I could not be bothered to finish one chapter before starting another.  Reading it brought to mind all of the other areas in which my follow-through has left much to be desired through the years including piano, guitar, swimming, ballet, pretty much all exercise, shirt making (don't ask), bargain shopping, and recycling.  My point (I do have one) is that I want to believe that the accomplishment of finishing the manuscript for An Unexpected Kingdom was not a fluke and that I have it in me to write novels (which by necessity includes finishing them).  As my mom says: we'll see.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

No one thing

My bookshelves are a study in the chaos of eclecticism. There is no one genre that I can point to as typifying what I love to read because I enjoy so many different styles and categories of writing, which seem to expand every day as sub-genre upon sub-genre bursts into the lexicon.  Even staying within children's literature (Young Adult and Middle Grade) I am all over the place with the titles I choose and then cherish.  Three very different books that I read in the last week are a good example.  I read each of the three straight through on a different day and I completely connected with all of them for different reasons.  The first (read last Friday) was Hereafter by Tara Hudson, a YA modern ghost story that does double duty as a page-turning mystery and a sweet-as-anything love story.  I was intrigued from the very beginning and really identified with the characters.  The book made me smile and had a satisfying ending (which is really a big thing with me, I'm not a fan of the cliffhanger without any tie-up), but also left me wanting to know more about Amelia and Joshua: a perfect mix.  I had a very different reaction to another YA novel, the heralded Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, which I read on Monday.  My initial reaction was "disturbingly beautiful"; I put the book down when I was done and just sat for nearly an hour thinking about it.  It was at once compelling and uncomfortable; written on a level that is a few floors above the plane on which most authors exist.  Finally, on Saturday night I read the adorable MG novel The Allegra Biscotti Collection by Olivia Bennett staring Emma Rose, an 8th grader that I want to befriend (and have design my fall wardrobe).  This book just simply made me happy.  Nothing more, nothing less.  The writing and the character are infectious.  So, three books that I truly enjoyed for very different reasons, all of which inspired me to continue and improve my own writing.  If my writing can invoke any of these same feelings in others, I would consider myself an enormous success.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A maddeningly solitary activity

I have twice tried to join a writers' group.  For those of you who think that sounds like a support group, well I guess it is in a way, but really it is a critique group: a small number of writers who read and comment on each other's work.  It seems like every novel I read contains an acknowledgments page that mentions the wonderful writers' group without whom the author could never have produced such a masterpiece (a fabricated example: "For my sisters at WeLoveWritingAndDarkAngels4Eva- you gave me the strength to keep going when I just wanted to gorge myself on rice cakes and kill off all my characters in tanning bed accidents.").  I want that.  Well I want that without having to ever eat a rice cake.  I love to read and I read incredibly quickly so I feel like I could be an invaluable member to a group of other aspiring or current YA or MG writers (or any kind of fiction writer, really).  And I am almost physically hungry for feedback on my own writing.  I have a core group of truly dazzling family members and friends, led by my beautiful sister Caitlin, who read everything I write and lavish praise on it, but everyone who writes knows that there is no substitute for the critical feedback you can get from someone who a) doesn't love you to pieces and b) also lives and breathes writing.  However, my two attempts to find such a group ended in defeat.  The stories are too pathetic to share in their entirety, but suffice it to say that two existing groups did not accept me as a member.  There were no failed auditions or anything, they just never responded to me.  It's like being told you can't sit at someone's lunch table while you're standing there with a tray.  So, my goal for this summer is to find a writers' group that will let me sit at the lunch table.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Listen to the birdie (tweet, tweet)

I have sent my first tweet!  I am embarrassed at how long it took me to figure out how to do it.  I still am confused on who will SEE it since I have no followers, but you can be one of the first (see the little button on the right hand side of the page above the blog archive).  Spending hours on one sentence is not all I accomplished today.  I also engaged in a second writing exercise for The Guardians of Ben Q. Flanders.  I was inspired by the structure exercise I did over the weekend so I took it a step further and laid out all the major scenes that will accompany those structure points.  I ended up with 4-5 major scenes for each of the three "acts" or sections of the story and I am hoping that now this first draft will flow onto the page.  My goal is approximately 50,000 words (usual for a Middle Grade novel) to be done by July 15.  That is one month from tomorrow and if I stay on track with writing five or six days a week I am confident I can do it. 

Monday, June 13, 2011


I am back home, back to my computer, and best of all, buoyed by the Bruins' game six victory.   First, an update on my challenge to myself to write 10,000 words in the two days between late Tuesday night and late Thursday night:  I did not make it (boo), but I did end up with an additional 7,211 words added to The Guardians of Ben Q. Flanders when all was said and done.  My gross word total was certainly higher but since I am a compulsive editor, the net fell short of my goal.  Although I did not write over the weekend while I was away, I did engage in an exercise that I learned at the Grub Street conference.  I had really enjoyed a session on structure led by James Scott in which he explained the structure of the screenplay and how using the three act layout can help you shape your story even if it is a full-length novel.  I mimicked his set-up (see above) and it forced me think about specific points of my story and now I have a renewed sense of what is happening in my plot.  Yay for renewed sense of story!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Almost there!

I suspect my time is up as it's been 48 hours since I said I would write 10,000 words over the next two days, but I am sorta almost there so I'm not counting myself out yet.  I'm still writing and have another Diet Coke in the refrigerator if I need it.  If I never hit the delete button I would probably be just about there, but I am an edit-as-I-go writer.  If I step away from the computer for a minute, I am revising as soon as I return.  I will be away for the weekend and without my computer, so tonight is my last chance to write for a few days and thankfully the Bruins are off tonight, although my attention keeps being drawn to the Dallas/Miami game (Go Mavs.). 
Something that I want to mention quickly before I jump back to my pal Ben, is that I read and very much enjoyed The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card.  Card is a highly regarded and prolific science fiction writer and is particularly well known for his award-winning novel Ender's Game.  That book has been recommended to me several times, including by two non-family/friends who read early drafts of my manuscript and thought Ender's Game would be a great book for me to read as an example of a wonderfully written novel in my genre.  But then- disaster(!!)- the type of which really never happens to me.  I didn't like it.  I didn't actively dislike it by any means, but I just did not connect with it and I was completely embarrassed (in truth, this is the first time I am admitting it).  I felt like I was not getting what Card was writing and that it meant I was not smart enough to write a good fantasy novel.  But, now that I really connected with The Lost Gate, I simply think that not every book (even the great ones) are right for every reader and I will rest a bit easier. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

10,000 words and bit on HYPE

Enough has grown to be just about enough with my procrastination and so I am committing to writing 10,000 words in the next two days on The Guardians of Ben Q. Flanders.  Pinky swear.  Now that I have exhausted  all of the episodes of Psych available to me on Netflix, I really have no choice (unless miraculously season five becomes available in the next day). 
In the past two days I have read two YA books that received enormous critical acclaim and then (in one case at least) the perhaps inevitable backlash.  I have never understood this- the backlash against things that are well received.  Why do so many people feel the need to dislike what is well liked?  I am not a fan of the too cool for school crowd.  The result is that those who create need to both worry that their work will not be well received and that it will be too well received.  At any rate, I read looking for alaska by John Green today and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie yesterday and really enjoyed them both.  Both were very worthy of the praise and awards.  You can see my reviews on the "One Sentence Reviews" tab.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

This will only sting for a minute

I knew it would happen and had been mentally preparing for it- my first rejection (the first of what could be many- hopefully not many, many).  I don't know if it's the eternal optimist in me or my overactive imagination, but when I saw that "Re: Query for An Unexpected Kingdom" in my inbox yesterday, my pulse quickened and my stomach lurched with a tiny thrill.  How amazing would it be if one of my top five agent choices, and the first answer I received, was a "hell yes- please, please send me more!"?  In a millisecond I was picturing us sitting in New York (possibly Central Park) talking about Ava and Eiden over Diet Cokes and Gray's Papaya hot dogs.  I would need to purchase cool sunglasses for the occasion.  And then I clicked on the message and saw the rejection- a pretty nice one, but a rejection all the same.  I'll admit it- I'm disappointed.  I guess if I'm not disappointed every time, it would mean I didn't really care, and I do because I love this novel.  The email seemed to be personalized, or else she just has a great form rejection.  She said that she "simply did not connect with the voice here enough to pursue this project further", which is a big ouch, but she also said "you're a very skilled writer", which is nice to hear (form rejection or not).  Four more out there- hope springs eternal!

Saturday, May 28, 2011


It's not always about the ideas.  You can have the most detailed ideas for your novel fresh in your mind, but without the ability to translate that onto the page, you don't actually have anything.  That's where inspiration enters the picture.  Everyone gets the will to do the work from different things.  I get it from reading other people's truly excellent writing.  To that end, I am filled with inspiration after reading the wonderful Divergent by Veronica Roth.  The characters were flawlessly constructed, the plot moved quickly, and most importantly, the story was fresh and exciting.  Reading this fantastic debut novel last night made me want to be a better writer and gave me the drive to start doing that immediately.  To see my review of Divergent and my other one sentence reviews, click on that page above.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Time to write

There are many days when I do not drive anywhere, yet when faced with the inability to do so, I suddenly feel like a prisoner and can think of a million places I need to be.  However, while my car is at the mechanic through tomorrow evening, I am going to use the opportunity to write, write, write (as opposed to staring out the window wishing I could go somewhere).  As promised, here is a photo of Boston with her copy of The Hunger Games.  She swears I did not over-recommend it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Walk in the Woods

Today the dogs and I took a little hike in the woods near our house and the plot that I was unable to find while writing at home suddenly became clear.  All I needed was one thread of an idea- there's a traitor!- and the rest fell into place.  So, yay for Ben Q!  His story is starting to hit the page.  Here is a photo of Annie looking literary.  I'll try to find one of Boston for the next post.

Monday, May 23, 2011


I do not know which of these two events, both of which transpired in the past ten minutes, is worse: 1) Instead of drinking out of my Diet Coke can, which is resting next to me on the end table and is standing at the head of a line of empty Diet Coke cans from the past few hours, I drank from the Diet Coke can that my husband left right next to my computer even though I said to him, "You can't put your can on my tray table, this is my space."  Normally this would not be a big deal- we are married, we can certainly drink of out the same can.  However, not five minutes previously my husband had picked a part of our dog Annie's nail off (why? who knows) and PUT IT IN THAT DIET COKE CAN.  2) I made a really bad cake.  It is so dense it forces you to make that disgusting "ack ack" noise with your mouth (that noise makes me cringe).  I didn't really have all the ingredients to make any one dessert so I just mixed a lot of ingredients that go in some dessert together.  I am not a natural baker.  Anyway... those two awful things are just serving to distract me from an actual problem.  My plot is eluding me.  The plot I am referring to is the story arc for The Guardians of Ben Q. Flanders.  I have no idea what happens.  The characters are clear as day.  I know them.  They exist for me.  The plot on the other hand is living just beyond the grasp of my imagination.  The short story was easy because the plot was really the introductory event to the novel, which serves as exposition and character development.  Now, I need a REAL plot.  I have thought of and discarded about fourteen story arcs in the past two days.  Maybe Diet Coke number nine will hold the answer.  Or maybe I'll just watch t.v.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

One Sentence Reviews

I have added a new page featuring my reviews of Young Adult and Middle Grade Novels.  The twist is that I only have one sentence in which to laud or lambaste.  (Although since I tend to like pretty much everything I read, the lambasting will likely be infrequent.)  I am going to try to post a new review of a recently read book as close to every day as possible as well as fill in the archives with reviews of the books lining my bookshelves.  If you have a one sentence review you would like to contribute, post it in a comment and I'll add it as a guest review. 
**If you have been checking on this blog regularly please join as a follower below!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Access to Books for All

The New York Times website recently featured a piece on one of my favorite charities, First Book.  Those of you who know me will likely recognize the name as I have hyped this wonderful group before.  Getting books to children who do not have easy access to them is hugely important.  Books were an integral part of my childhood and I can still see the effects reading had on me - becoming a great reader made learning so much easier for me and helped me to not lose my mind in law school, it gave me the ability to use my (perhaps overactive) imagination, and most importantly it gave me a thirst for knowledge.  I wish the same for every child.  Please visit the First Book website and give if you have the ability.
I submitted a short story version of The Guardians of Ben Q. Flanders to the Writer's Digest Annual Competition today.  It is really more of an excerpt (maybe a first chapter) because I just could not get a complete story arc into 2,000 words, but I am happy with it.  It also helped to solidify that this work is supposed to be a full-length novel.  I am going to move forward with that project next and get moving on An Uncertain Destiny

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Beware the over-recommendation

The irony is that I am as guilty of this crime as anyone; I cannot even begin to count the number of people I badgered into reading The Hunger Games- but wasn't it worth it?  However, I suffer from the inability to experience things that are over-recommended (especially when it's my father doing the recommending- sorry dad!).  I am fine with over-played songs on the radio and can watch the same movie or read the same book time and time again but for some inexplicable reason I shy away from things that my loved ones tell me I will enjoy.  As a result I have never seen the film Slingblade or watched the t.v. shows Friday Night Lights or Mad Men.  A copy of The Help sits gathering dust on my dresser (one of two I have been gifted).  What is it that makes me this way?  I am not a contrarian, I have no problem liking things that everyone else likes too, and I have certainly shoved Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Clive Cussler's books, and Five Guys Burgers down enough throats.  It remains, as much of my quirks, a mystery, but one that I will attempt to overcome.  A sort of summer resolution. 
In writing news, I am revising my short story version of The Guardians of Ben Q. Flanders and am having a difficult time because I think it wants to be a novel.  I am trying to get it down really short (2,000 words) for a contest and maybe I'm forcing something that just isn't going to work.  Deadline is tomorrow so we'll see how tonight goes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Why I love YA

After reading a recent post on the blog Love YA I really got started thinking about why I love to write and read Young Adult novels.  As should be obvious, I am no longer a young adult even by the most amazingly generous stretching of that definition.  But inside (and only in the best way) I am perpetually fourteen.  My husband is at peace with my love of Zac Efron and Harry Potter and Glee and the oeuvre of Step Up films.  But my heart is really in the literature.  I love the purity of emotion that only teenagers can experience, even if they are vampires or ghosts or live in a post-apocalyptic world. That emotion comes through the best in the written word. I probably read four times as much YA and Middle Grade as fiction written for adults.  With writing, you have the ability to be so much more free with your characters- often they don't think through their decisions or pause before they speak, they act rashly and blurt out whatever is on their minds.  It's more fun and more real.  Kids are funnier and more dramatic than we are.  It's the best.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ready, Set, Wait!

My first five queries are out! Now comes the waiting.  The five agents I queried vary in their given response time and style.  Two will only respond if they are interested; the other three will send rejections.  The average response time goes from four weeks to twelve, so that is a long time of staring at my inbox and hitting refresh.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Technical Difficulties Update

My post from the 11th has been restored but not the comment to the post or the changes I had made to other page, which is a bummer.  That's the way it goes I guess. 
My second query went out on Friday to a really cool agent that was personally recommended by the talented Megan Kelley Hall (check out her terrific young adult books Sisters of Misery and The Lost Sister and her soon to be released anthology Dear Bully; you can also visit her blog).  Queries three, four, and five should go out tonight and then I am gearing up for a week of writing.  My husband is away on business all week and it is just me and the dogs and my imagination here at home.  I had missed a deadline for the Writer's Digest competition, but it was just extended to the end of this week so I hope to be able to submit The Guardians of Ben Q. Flanders if I can get it in good enough shape by then.  We'll see if I can tear myself away from the middle grade series The 39 Clues, which I have become obsessed with.  I went and checked out books four through ten from the public library on Friday and this morning I started reading them.  They are so much fun!  The librarians assume I have a child who is an incredibly fast reader as I am there stocking up on books every few days.  For some strange reason I have never corrected them.  I know the truth will come out soon and they will think I am insane.  C'est la vie!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Technical Difficulties

Blogger (which hosts this blog) experienced some difficulties over the past few days and so I was unable to post and now my most recent post on listening (and my nice comment from writer Anne Greenwood Brown) is missing.  I hope it will be restored sometime today.  It's a coincidence that this technology snafu should be happening now because I have been thinking about how much I rely on my computer while at the same time completely ignoring it in favor of a chaotic life of scrap paper.  I can't decide if I am a computer person or not. When I first started writing I did a lot of my first draft and some of the first revisions longhand.  I do not know why or when exactly I made the switch, but for the past few years I have written actual prose almost entirely on the computer but still done all my notes and research by hand.  As a result when I want to look at an early draft of An Unexpected Kingdom or Marian I can go right to my thumb drive and call it up, but if I want to remember why I changed something I have to sort through piles and piles of notecards, napkins, folded notebook pages, bits of paper, and about six different journals.  If there is a less efficient system, I cannot fathom it.  I am trying to organize all of those notes so that I can make sure to have them easily accessible as I start to write the An Uncertain Destiny, the second book in Ava's story.
In real time news, I am just about ready to send out the other four of my first five queries. Due to a busy weekend, my goal is to get them out by Sunday evening.  Exciting!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I am totally listening

It's rude and inexcusable and I absolutely hate it when someone does it to me, but I can't help it.  I sometimes find my mind drifting off during conversation; I should be listening to a story about a friend's hilarious canoe trip to Montreal with her dad (not a real story) but instead I am thinking about how the girl ordering a coffee looks like she has been crying and the way she is worrying her scarf with her left hand makes me think that she has just called off an engagement - maybe because she found out some secret about her beloved (something magnificently horrible!) - and is throwing furtive glances over her shoulder like she is on the run from someone.  My brain goes into character mode and in seconds that girl has a backstory.  Luckily my memory seems to be able to function without my active participation and even though I am tuned out, I still catch enough of the story to not endanger my friendship.
In other news, I have sent out my first query for An Unexpected Kingdom!  I created a handy Excel spreadsheet that I have dubbed my Query Tracker in case this process gets unwieldy.  The agent I emailed tonight (let's call him Agent 1) is with an agency that I have followed for a while and he just moved there last year after a dozen years as an editor.  I also submitted my short short, Last Ride, to a contest at American Short Fiction magazine.  Fingers and toes crossed.