Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Today in Class: The Foreign Tongue

I love languages, and try to pick up a little from anywhere I go, or any culture that I am interested in. I've got half-way decent French (I mean, I could get around, with lots of pointing and miming to go with it), can ask about toilets and prices in Italian (what else do you need to know?), and greetings and common phrases in several other languages. Not much--it's just that language fascinates me, so I pick up on it more.


Kid 1: *whispers to Kid 2* I bet she can't.

Kid 2: *whispers back* Bet she can!

Me: Bet I can what?

Kid 1: Bet you can't say anything in French.

Me: Ah, oui! Je parle in Francais, et tu?

Kid 2: Oooooo!

Kid 1: Say something from Germany!

Me: Ich sprecken sie Deutsch.

Kid 2: Latin!

Me: Semper ubi, sub ubi.

Kid 1: Do you know anything from Japan?

Me: Ohiyo.

Kid 2: Say something from China!

Me: Nihao!

Kid 1: Can you say something from England?

Me: Wait--what?

Kid 2: OOoo, you got her! She doesn't know how speak from England!

Me: ...

Me: Seriously? I mean....seriously?

Kid 1 & Kid 2: *high five*

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Today in Class: Random Funnies

I overheard two students talking. The girl had recently come out, and was working up the nerve to ask another girl out to the prom.

Boy: Just ask her already!

Girl: I want to, but I'm scared! I love her so much! I want to marry her and be with her forever and--

Boy: I hope you don't think you can have babies with her.

Girl: We could adopt.

Boy: You've got different mechanics, that's all I'm saying.


Also overheard in the hall:
Kid: I'm going to Creative Writing Club after school today!

History Teacher: Oh, you're part of the Mrs. Revis fan club?

Ack! The eternal battle between the History Department and the English Department rages on!


 At the Creative Writing Club meeting, I had the kids make posters advertising a call for entries to our literary magazines. My favorite poster? The one that said:

Bring your entries to E-Rizzle's in Room 111, yo!



Monday, February 22, 2010

Music Monday: Feeling Wicked

Recently saw WICKED. LOVE IT SO HARD. Great story, surprisingly funny bits, and totally worth sitting waaaaay up high to get to him.

Not the best link to the song--but it at least looks like an official link. The British Galinda seems out of place, but this version gives the it's a give and take... :)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Kangaroo Dog

Ugh. Teacher emo. Here, have the funniest picture of my dog in the snow.

Some Observations

If you're going to write for teens, you should understand at least a little of how/why they think.

Which includes why they do the things they do when they have extreme emotions--and, let's face it, teens have extreme emotions.

Such as the desire to fight.

When boys get into fights, one of two things happens. Either they snap and attack, or they feel threatened and the need to defend. If they snap and are the attacker--watch out. They're not thinking; they're completely physical. But they, often, are only focused on the specific person(s) they want to fight. If you step in between that fight, they (probably) won't (intentionally) hit you, too--boys tend to keep a sense of fighting only the person they want to fight. If they feel the need to defend, you can stop that sort of fight. They don't want to fight, anyway, they feel that they need to.

When girls get into fights, step back. Girls are like rabid, wild lionesses and one should never attempt to stop a girl fight.

Knowing this will make your writing stronger. Think of the different ways boys and girls react to the desire--or need--to fight. Is your character going to snap--and will he inadvertently hurt someone else? Or will your character throw herself into the fight and not care about who they hurt in the way?

(Can you guess what happened in class today?)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Shelli's Post on Marketing

Shelli let me know that the post she wrote for my guest blog week has been expanded over on the Shrinking Violets site!

In her words:
I expanded on the one I gave you and it includes more in depth information that will run over 2 posts. I divided the 3 stages I gave you even further into 4 stages and went into more detail.

Today in Class: Ignore the Degrees on the Wall

Today in class, my students are using Apple Laptops to do a research project (our school may have goats in the backyard and be surrounded by nothing but farms, but we do have a technology grant that freaking rocks).

Anyway, a lot of the kids hate Macs--they don't know the shortcuts and aren't as comfortable with them. A common problem is they'll open an application such as Word, and not know that they need to open a document within Word. The application will be on, in other words, but there won't be any document to type in.

Kid: Mrs. Revis! I can't figure this stupid thing out! Where is Word?

Me: *walk over without saying anything, press command and the letter N as the shortcut to open a new document, start to walk away*

Kid: she just, like, touched it and now it works.

Other Kid: Wow. I guess some teachers are getting smarter now.

A kid asked me for tape for her project.

Me: Sorry--I don't have tape.

Kid 1: What kind of teacher doesn't have tape?

Me: I had tape before I left, but it disappeared while I was gone. I guess one of the kids or the sub stole it.

Kid 2: Who would steal tape?

Kid 1: Well, YOU stole Teacher X's stapler!

Kid 2: Yeah, but that's not tape! I wouldn't steal tape!

Me: Why did you steal Teacher X's stapler?

Kid 2: Cause I don't like him.

Me: You know the school buys the staplers, right? All he had to do was go back to the office and get another one.

Kid 2: Well, he didn't have any staples to staple his papers together that night, then, did he?

Kid 1: Don't worry, Mrs. Revis, we like you. We won't steal your stapler.

Kid 2: But someone did steal your tape...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Music Monday Wednesday: The Spark of Creation

OK, so, since the husband gave me a kick-a super-long weekend at the Red Rocker Inn (a wonderful B&B in nearby Black Mountain) and because I was so busy a) getting together the winners of the last contest and b) getting together prizes for the NEXT contest, I missed Music Monday.

Which is fortunate, because I only found out about this song TODAY. From CP and awesome person Rebecca, who blogs at Mormon Mommy Writers. I think Rebecca sums it up best:
Stephen Schwartz, who wrote the musical Wicked, is one of my favorite composers and lyricists. This song "The Spark of Creation" from his musical Children of Eden captures exactly how I feel about WRITING!
So, without further ado, here's an awesome (and awesomely sung) song that pretty much sums up what it means to be any sort of artist:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Attention: Authors



I've got a secret.

(I'm already putting together a big huge awesome gift basket for my next giveaway...which is coming SOON...and which I am super excited about.)


And, on a related note: if you are an author, and would like me to distribute swag (i.e. signed book marks, book plates, etc., etc., etc.) then email me (bethrevis at and we'll make it happen. I'd love to add some extra goodies (that would also advertise your books) in with the prizes!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Thanks again everyone for entering the Blog-cation contest!

And now...WINNERS!

Random Drawing winner:

The number Random.Org picked was: 71

And the 71st entry belonged to...NISA!

How Many Unread Blogs Will Beth Have winner:

The number of unread blogs I had as of noon Sunday was 944. My own personal guess was 900.

There were several realllllly close guesses here. But the closest number without going over was...879.

And the person who guessed 879 was...PJ Hoover!

The Totally Subjective Most Awesome Link Provided was...
There were a lot of good links that provided me a lot of wasted time (the Trunk Monkey entry would have won, but I'd already seen it before--ah, the tribulations of something totally subjective...), but in the end I had two favorite links.

The first was a video. A three-year-old interpretation of Star Wars: A New Hope. Darth Vader blewed stuff up. 'Nuff said.

The second was a link to Smithsonian's Real Places Behind Famously Frighteningly Stories. This was just really cool to read... here's a sample:

The story of a ship called the Flying Dutchman doomed to sail the seas for eternity is a trusty old chestnut much loved in the arts. Richard Wagner turned it into an opera, ...
Many believe the original vessel was sailing between Holland and the Dutch East Indies in the 17th century. As it approached the Cape of Good Hope near the tip of Africa, a fierce storm arose. The captain, perhaps eager to get the trip over with, vowed to round the treacherous coastline even if it took him until doomsday. Read more:

How could I pick between an amazingly adorable kid's interpretation of one of my favorite movies, and a list of the background of historical locations that inspired scary stories? Both equally appeal to my vastly nerdy side.

Fortunately I don't have to pick! Both links were provided by one person.

And the winner of the awesomely cool linkage provider is: Heather Zundel!

Thanks everyone for playing along!

And there's an even better contest coming soon...verrrry stick around!

PS: The subscribers to my newsletter got a heads up about the new contest coming up. If you're not subscribed, be sure to sign up in the box to the right!

PPS: WINNERS: Please email me (bethrevis (at) with your mailing address and if you've got any preference of the books listed below. 

The Prizes!

Thanks to everyone for entering my contest to celebrate a week of slovenly behavior! I actually got quite  a bit done, and that, with my remaining vacation, means that I hope to finish a project I'm working on early. Which is awesome.

Before I announce the winners (soon!) I thought I'd announce the prizes. In addition to a new books and ARCs, I also threw in a few only-read-once-and-gently-worn books to up the prize selection and ante. I take really good care of my books and doubt you'll be able to tell the diff.

OK: the prizes...
(all book descriptions courtesy of IndieBound)

Beautiful Creatures (hardbound)
Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.

Gods of Manhattan (hardcover)

Look. What do you see? Sidewalks, skyscrapers, pigeons? But there's more. More that only twelve-year-old Rory Hennessey can see. More that only Rory can reveal to others.

So, look again. What do you see? Layered on our own New York is a spirit city inhabited by warrior cockroaches, malevolent subway trains, kung fu rodents, hungry gargoyles, and children made entirely of papier-mache. Built by history and legend, it's ruled by the Gods of Manhattan, lions of New York like Peter Stuyvesant and Babe Ruth.

Now everyone is racing to find Rory--the boy who can see. The boy who can change the destiny of New York.

 I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You (paperback)
Cammie Morgan is a student at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, a fairly typical all-girls school-that is, if every school taught advanced martial arts in PE and the latest in chemical warfare in science, and students received extra credit for breaking CIA codes in computer class.  The Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses but it's really a school for spies.    Even though Cammie is fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways, she has no idea what to do when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks she's an ordinary girl.  Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, or track him through town with the skill of a real "pavement artist"-but can she maneuver a relationship with someone who can never know the truth about her?

Cammie Morgan may be an elite spy-in-training, but in her sophomore year, she's on her most dangerous mission-falling in love.

 Riding the Universe (ARC)
ChloÉ Rodriguez values three things above all else—her family; her best friend, Rock; and Lolita, her Harley-Davidson 1200 Sportster. With a black body, blue airbrushed flames, and perfect sloping ape hangers, Lolita is ChloÉ's last connection to her beloved uncle, Seth, who left her the bike when he died last summer. So when a failing chemistry grade threatens to separate ChloÉ from her motorcycle, she vows not to let that happen . . . no matter what.
Enter Gordon. Ridiculously organized, Übersmart, and hot in a casual, doesn't-know-it kind of way, ChloÉ's peer tutor may have a thing or two to teach her besides chemistry. But she has to stop falling for Gordon . . . and get Rock to act mature whenever he's around . . . and pass chemistry so she doesn't lose Lolita forever. Just when ChloÉ thinks she's got it all figured out, a bump in the road comes out of nowhere and sends her skidding.

 Vamped (paperback)
(This description is from Amazon; IndieBound didn't have one)
When Gina makes out with newly hot Bobby after prom, she gets more than she bargained for. Later, her boyfriend Chaz crashes his car and Gina finds out the hard way why the teen death rate is up in her Ohio town. She wakes up and claws her way out of the grave, adjusting quickly to the fact that she is now undead. Bobby meets her at the cemetery and they end up back at her house before sunrise. They are then captured and taken to a secret hideout where they meet Mellisande, a rogue vampire who seeks to build her own army and to fulfill a prophecy. She has turned a group of teens into vampires, but Bobby has special powers, including telekinesis, that the other vamps do not possess. Chaz and Gina's friend Marcy are among the new vamps who are training in combat skills to take on the vampire council, and Gina must step up to save her friends.

 Undiscovered Gyrl (ARC)
Only on the internet can you have so many friends and be so lonely.
Beautiful, wild, funny, and lost, Katie Kampenfelt is taking a year off before college to find her passion. Ambitious in her own way, Katie intends to do more than just smoke weed with her boyfriend, Rory, and work at the bookstore. She plans to seduce Dan, a thirty-two-year-old film professor.

Katie chronicles her adventures in an anonymous blog, telling strangers her innermost desires, shames, and thrills. But when Dan stops taking her calls, when her alcoholic father suffers a terrible fall, and when she finds herself drawn into a dangerous new relationship, Katie's fearless narrative begins to crack, and dark pieces of her past emerge.

Sexually frank, often heartbreaking, and bursting with devilish humor, Undiscovered Gyrl is an extraordinarily accomplished novel of identity, voyeurism, and deceit.

 The Treasure Map of Boys (ARC)
Ruby is back at Tate Prep, and it’s her thirty-seventh week in the state of Noboyfriend. Her panic attacks are bad, her love life is even worse, and what’s more:

Noel is writing her notes, Jackson is giving her frogs, Gideon is helping her cook, and Finn is making her brownies. Rumors are flying, and Ruby’s already-sucky reputation is heading downhill.

Not only that, she’s also: running a bake sale, learning the secrets of heavymetal therapy, encountering some seriously smelly feet, defending the rights of pygmy goats, and bodyguarding Noel from unwanted advances.

In this companion novel to The Boyfriend List and The Boy Book, Ruby struggles to secure some sort of mental health, to understand what constitutes a real friendship, and to find true love—if such a thing exists.

The Mercy of Thin Air (hardcover)
In 1920s New Orleans, Raziela Nolan's magnificent love affair is interrupted by her untimely and tragic death. Immediately after, she chooses to stay "between" -- a realm that exists after life and before whatever lies beyond it. From this remarkable vantage point, Razi narrates the story of her lost love as well as of the relationship of Amy and Scott, a young couple whose house she haunts seventy years later. It is their own troubled story that finally compels Razi to slowly unravel the mystery of what happened to her first and only passion, Andrew, and to confront a long-hidden secret.
"The Mercy of Thin Air" entwines two heartbreaking and redemptive love stories that echo across three generations and culminates in a finish that will leave readers breathless. It is a poignant and brilliant first novel that beautifully captures the nature of love and shows how it transcends all barriers -- even death.

 The Octopus Effect (ARC)
Ever since Simon Bloom defeated deadly Sirabetta, heas been having fun with the laws of physics. Until Sirabetta sets out for revenge. Now Simon must follow her to the Order of Biologyas realm. Simon will get some wild abilities from the "Book of Biology," but that might not be enough against Sirabetta. With the universe at stake, Simon struggles to master the Octopus Effect in this action-packed sequel to "Simon Bloom, the Gravity Keeper."

 The Man Who Loved Clowns (paperback)
Now available in paperback--this moving, award-winning story is based on the author's own experiences of growing up with her beloved uncle Punky, who had Down's syndrome.

Today in Class: Of Snobbery and Pregnancy

This happened last week, during Guest Post Week, but I figured I'd save it until now. See, the husband, being the wonderful guy he is, decided I needed more of a break than an unplug week. So, he booked a bed and breakfast in the mountains, told me to take three days off work, and holed me up in an ivory tower. Freaking A.

As a side-note relevant to this post: I'm one of the youngest teachers at school, and for a few years now, the kids (and some of the teachers) have had a running bet on when I'll get preggers. Because we live in a small town, and that's what people do: get knocked up. I try to tamp down the rampant speculation, but for some kids, they think nothing is more fascinating than a teacher who is a real person and might have kids.

Me: OK, so, kids, I'm going to be out for a couple of days. Be nice to the substitute.

Kid 1: Where are you going?

Me: My husband's taking me out.

All the Kids: OooOoOoooooooOooooo!
(They are, of course, linking up the fact that the weekend I'm going to be gone is also Valentine's Day weekend...)

Kid 1: She's going out with her husband! And they're gonna get conceited!

Everyone in the Room: *blink*blink*

Kid 2: They're going to conceive, moron.

Me: *too busy laughing to reprimand them for bringing the subject up*

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Contest to Win Linger!

Linger Cover LargeIn Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other.  Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack.  And Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.

At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story that explores both sides of love -- the light and the dark, the warm and the cold -- in a way you will never forget.

Comes out in stores everywhere July 20th. Pre-order here.

Enter to win an advanced review copies of LINGER, Sisters Red, The Dead-Tossed Waves, and The Replacement on Maggie's blog.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Guest Post: Little Scribbler on Character Motivation

This is blog vacation week! And to celebrate, I've got a series of guest posts for this week...and a chance to win tons of free books! Today we're welcoming Little Scribbler, Australian teen author of the eponymous blog. He's writing today about character motivation. Thanks for joining the blog, Little Scribbler!

 What Motivates Them?
Recently, I’ve been thinking about character motivation. What drives the character on their quest? Why do they take those risks to achieve their goals? What makes them push for what they want? Why don’t they give in when things get too hard?

Motivation is the reason or incentive for doing something. It forces the protagonist to act. Forces them to keep going after all seems lost.

The motivation can come in many forms. Financial gain. Revenge. Fame. Protection of someone or something. It doesn’t really matter what the motivation is, it just needs to motivate the character. However, the motivation should be something the character desires.

As writers, it is not only our job to make sure the motivation is present, but also that the motivation is believable for the readers. The readers must believe that the character is properly motivated. The readers should even be motivated themselves.

Even the antagonist should have some sort of motivation. Why do they want what they are after? Why would they be willing to kill for it? In my opinion, the most used for of motivation for the antagonist is money or power.

You could even use motivation against the antagonist. In my own novel, the protagonist, Lily, is left in a cave in the Himalayas, after her side-kick betrays her and is then shot, and the antagonist leaves with what they came for. The antagonist goes to kill Lily, but decides against, arguing that she will be no bother to him  in the future - she has given up. However, Lily eventually realises she’s not ready to give up, and goes after the antagonist.

As you can see, the antagonist falsely believes that the protagonist has no more motivation. However, she does.

Character motivation can be powerful if used well. It should not only be motivation for the protagonist  and antagonist, but the reader as well.

Bio: Little Scribbler is the pen name of a teenaged author living near Brisbane, Australia. As a child, Little Scribbler moved frequently around the country, and visited overseas countries often. As a result, Little Scribbler has a passion for travelling, and has combined this passion with his passions for ancient history and creative writing to create an action thriller novel titled Poseidon’s Trident, which spans the globe in search of an ancient and powerful weapon.

Little Scribbler blogs regularly at his blog ( and can be contacted through Twitter ( or email.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Update on Contest

Ah! I'm terrible at taking time off. All I want to do is get back online.

Anyway, thought I'd pop in and say that the "Guess the Unread Posts" contest is neck-and-neck...three of you are within twenty guesses of my own personal guess, and this might be a photo-finish....

Guest Post: Susan Quinn on Writing a Thinking Book

This is blog vacation week! And to celebrate, I've got a series of guest posts for this week...and a chance to win tons of free books! Today we're welcoming Susan Quinn, author of the blog Ink Spells. She's writing today about books that make you think. Thank you so much for making me think, Sue!

Writing a Thinking Book

What does it mean to write a Thinking Book (patent pending), and why would you want to?

I’ve been giving this some thought (Ha! And you thought this would be a thoughtful post! Ok, I’ll stop now), and Beth graciously allowed me to guest post and share my thoughts with you (really, I’m stopping now).
I've spent years searching for appropriate books for my three boys (now ages 6, 9 and 11). They are all advanced readers, starting at very young ages, and finding books that would challenge their reading skills, intrigue them, and still are wholesome enough to pass the “Mommy Test” . . . well, that was no small trick. It meant a lot of time in the library, looking through reviews, and asking friends for recommendations.

My blog, Ink Spells, grew out of those years of searching for appropriate material for my kids. At Ink Spells we talk a lot about finding books for advanced readers 8-12 years old, but also about writing them, as I’m also working on a couple middle grade and young adult novels.

The reading level of a book is often a reflection more of the vocabulary than the content. In fact, many teen books have a lower reading level than many middle grade books (I know, I was shocked too). So, if you’re tempted to give your middle grader those young adult books because you think they are more challenging, think again. They are likely less challenging to read, while having more mature content.

While it’s difficult to find fiction with reading levels higher than about 6.0 (grade 6, zero months), it is somewhat easier to find Thinking Books. A Thinking Book is one which urges young readers to think about serious topics, be they social issues (oppression, rights) or family issues (friendship, family). More than just a simple story, there is some meat to these novels, something that advanced readers can sink their teeth into. They speak to the larger issues of the world, and spur on question after question, long after the book has retired to the shelf.

Middle graders are especially open to Thinking Books. While their older brothers and sisters are enamored with angsty teen issues, their teen status prevents them from hearing anything that may appear “preachy.” While it’s important to never talk down to smart middle grade minds, and middle graders do not want to be lectured to either, so much of how the world works is still unknown to them. They are like toddlers seeing flowers for the first time: they are intrigued by the feel, captivated by the smell, entranced that there is such a wonder in the world. Oh, to be a toddler again! Ahem.

Middle graders are at that wonder stage of understanding the world on a thought-engaging level. They are seeing governments, family structures, the economy, and social issues like freedom and slavery and war, for the very first time: they are intrigued by the idea that some governments might outlaw third children (Among the Hidden); they are captivated by the thought of children who are slaves but can communicate directly with computers (Softwire); they are fascinated by vision of wars as a game and games as a war (Only You Can Save Mankind).

Come to think of it, I am too.

Because middle graders are being exposed to the concepts for the first time, the Thinking Book that you write has a great potential to mold little minds. For me, this is a tremendously satisfying prospect, one that motivates a lot of my writing. I give a lot of thought to the themes in my books: what is this book saying about the human condition? What is the message it is bringing, directly or indirectly, into children’s minds?

This is a powerful thing, not to be taken lightly.

It is also what makes a book compelling. And compelling stories are the ones that make it to the NY Times Bestseller list, outsell their advances, and generally spread like wildfire through word-of-mouth. There is something about them that speaks to people, children and adults alike (because adults are the ones that buy them).

Donald Maass, in Writing the Breakout Novel, talks about themes, and how layering in rich themes in your book can take it to the next level, turning it into a Breakout Novel (Maass has the patent on that one). He doesn’t specifically address children’s books, but I think the idea applies just as well. He talks about the personal stakes and public stakes in a story: what themes apply to my character’s internal lives, and what themes apply to the world at large?

Writing these kinds of Thinking stories, without being overly moralistic or lecturing, is not easy, but then no writing is. But bringing that perspective to your story can enrich and enhance it. It may result in greater sales. It likely will result in a better book. And it will definitely have a profound impact on your Wee Readers, as you open up the world to them.

Bio: I'm an at-home-mom, environmental engineer, rocket scientist, writer and elected official. And I tap dance. Not really that last part—that would be crazy. I’m working on querying my middle grade science fiction novel, and I am eyeing the second draft of a young adult paranormal novel (no vampires!).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Guest Post: Anna Staniszewski on Happy Endings

This is blog vacation week! And to celebrate, I've got a series of guest posts for this week...and a chance to win tons of free books! Today we're welcoming Anna Staniszewski, an agented author who has a lovely and professional blog here. Her topic, on whether or not books need happy ending, grabbed me right away. Thanks for blogging with me, Anna!

Are We Ruled by Happy Endings?

For much of my life, I’ve been a fan of ambiguous and dark endings: The Giver, Z for Zachariah, Feed. It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good happy ending once in a while, but I also appreciate endings that make me think and that encourage me to draw my own conclusions.

That’s why I was as surprised as anyone when the YA fairy tale retelling I was working on suddenly decided it wanted a happy ending. While the original tale had ended tragically, the closer I got to the ending of my retelling, the more I couldn’t bear to make my characters suffer any longer. Had I gone soft? Was I caving to the pressure of happy endings? Or was the happy ending simply what the story needed?

There is no doubt that some stories earn their happy endings. In the Harry Potter books, the characters go through so much in the series that it’s a relief to see things wrapped up nicely in the end. After all that turmoil, the characters can finally get some rest! In real life, however, those who suffer the most often don’t have a lot to be hopeful about. Should that reality be reflected in literature? Or should we focus on hope in books because it can be so rare in real life?

Often our reactions to stories are shaped by our expectations. Not too long ago, for example, I went to see Up in the Air. I loved the film and appreciated its realistic, fairly ambiguous ending. On the way out, I heard a woman complain, “That was so sad!” I was surprised by her reaction until I realized she’d come to the theater expecting a romantic comedy; she wasn’t prepared for a dose of reality. If stories are established as dark from the beginning, readers can anticipate the possibility of an equally dark ending and decide whether or not they want to read on.

Is there a danger in becoming too dependent on happy endings? I believe there might be. Last summer I heard Kristin Cashore give a great talk on her first novel, Graceling. At the end of her speech, someone in the audience asked, “Are you going to write a sequel about Katsa and Po?” Kristin looked slightly confused. “I think I wrapped things up pretty well,” she said. “What more would you want to know?” The woman responded, “I want to know what happened to Po and Katsa after the book ended.” Clearly this reader wasn’t satisfied with the story ending as it was. She wanted more. A slide show? The characters’ medical histories? This?

She wanted complete and total closure, which is, of course, impossible. But can we really blame her? With the YA market flooded with series that let us live alongside characters for years, is it any wonder that readers not only want to know what happens next, they also want every single loose end tied up? After you’ve invested so much time in characters, when they feel like real people, you want to know that everything turns out all right for them. This is a nice idea, but what kind of pressure does that put on stories and their creators? And might we be selling ourselves short if all our endings aim at the same thing?

It used to be that YA was a land of anything-goes. Books could be as dark and hopeless as they wanted to be, with no obligation to end happily, or even hopefully. (Just read The Chocolate War to see what I mean.) But these days, YA is expected to give us at least a hopeful, if not a full-out happy, ending. Given the ongoing influence of TV and film (which often rely on formulaic endings) I wonder if this trend will only continue to grow. If that is the case, where does that leave writers and readers? Should we go with the trend, or is there value in having a bit of reality in our endings once in a while?

Bio: Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna grew up enjoying stories in both Polish and English. After studying theater in college, she worked at the Eric Carle Museum where she rediscovered her love of children’s books. She’s been scribbling furiously ever since. Anna lives south of Boston and teaches at Simmons College. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. You can visit her at

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

An update on the contest...

If you've not entered yet, be sure to enter before the end of this week. I'm getting a real kick out of seeing people's guesses for how many unread blogs I'll have in my feed reader. 

I'll say this much: one person's guess was so low I passed it in the first day...and one person's guess is so high I doubt I could get that many in a year! :) Definitely go enter--this is fun!

Now, go read Shelli's guest post, too--she was kind enough to let me coerce her into doing a topic I wanted her to post on :)

OK, back on vacay!

Guest Post: Shelli Johannes-Wells on Marketing at Different Stages

This is blog vacation week! And to celebrate, I've got a series of guest posts for this week...and a chance to win tons of free books! Today we're welcoming Shelli Johannes-Wells, a top marketer and agented author who runs the super-popular blog Market my Words. Thank you for guest blogging with me, Shelli!

Marketing for All Stages of Your Career
Marketing is something that happens throughout your career and it does change based on the phase you are moving through. Your target audience changes and therefore you need to adjust your marketing to fit the needs of the audiences. Here are a few things you can do in each stage:

Before signing with an agent
Your target is the agent. So keep that in mind as you begin your journey.
  • Write a great book – without a “product” there is no point in targeting any “market” or searching for an agent. The best way to gauge your writing is to better your craft, use beta readers, and join critique groups.
  • Write a good query letter with an irresitible hook – Elana Johnson has a great ebook and Casey McCormick does weekly agent spotlights
  • Begin building your platform – do whatever you feel comfortable with to begin (join an organization and get involved, blog, participate in conferences etc.)
  • Do your research – know the agents and their likes/dislikes. A lot of them are very active on Twitter and blogs and that gives you extra insight you may never get otherwise.

After the book deal (but before publication)
Now your goal is to figure your future target audience and how to reach them.
  • Immerse yourself in networking
  • Build a professional web presence – before you may have had a scarce web site or the beginning of a blog. Take it to the next level. Add a media kit, be sure your branding is consistent
  • Start developing an extensive marketing plan. Who are your audiences, how do you reach them, what relationships do you need to develop
  • Look at all the events around your publication date and start planning visits/signings/conference appearances/ etc at least 6 months in advance. It wont all be done but you want most of your stuff in place 3 months before publication.
  • Meet with your publicist and be sure you understand their role. Be sure you partner with them and know what they are doing and where you can pick up.
  • Focus on the larger target markets. Be sure your plan spans all avenues: online, in person, etc.

After publication
At this point, most of your marketing should already be in place.
  • So it is a matter of executing it and making sure it is continuous.
  • Find other ways to branch out of the mainstream marketing.
  • Now you can focus on the smaller target audiences.

I guess my point is that how you market depends on who you are marketing to. Agents, editors, readers, writers, librarians, bloggers etc. You need to know the audience, find out how to best reach them and then target them directly. This will change throughout the phases of your career and it is an ongoing process.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Guest Post: Rebecca Carlson on Getting Past Level One

This is blog vacation week! And to celebrate, I've got a series of guest posts for this week...and a chance to win tons of free books! Today we're welcoming Rebecca Carlson, a long-time friend and critique partner. Thank you for posting, Rebecca!

Getting Past Level One

I teach my music students that there are four levels of performance:

1. Technical Accuracy - hit every note on the page, don't make any mistakes.

2. Interpretation - understand what the music means. Think about the emotions or images the music should create.

3. Expression - communicate your interpretation to the listener. The listener sees what you see, feels what you feel.

4. Power - something deep and true comes out of the music. Hearts are touched. Lives are changed. Spiritual communion through sound.

This is adapted from Clayne W. Robison's book, Beautiful Singing. It helps me get my students past banging out notes on the piano and on to making music. It brings wonderful moments, like my son finishing a Strauss waltz and calling out, "Could you see the roses, mom?"

Level one is a good foundation. No one wants to listen to a performance full of mistakes. But that's only the beginning. The performer should know what the music means, what it is trying to say. That’s level two. And then the performer needs to communicate that meaning to the audience, which is a different skill from both understanding the music and playing the notes correctly. Level three is being a good actor.

Level four? No one can make that happen. If it comes, it comes. It is like a gift. Get the first three levels going, and sometimes the fourth comes pouring in, leaving everyone in tears.

Thinking about these levels of performance can help me as a writer too. How often do I write at level one and never get beyond that? Oh, these sentences are all clear and easy to read, but am I feeling anything? Am I really seeing it in my own head?

And do those emotions and images come across to the reader?

And is there any power in it?

Technical accuracy is absolutely essential for a writer. Mistakes in the prose can kick a reader right out of the story. But even if the prose is perfect, if the writer has nothing to say then the reader won’t want to keep reading.

Interpretation is a matter of imagination. Get in deep. Touch it, taste it, feel it. Become your characters, see through their eyes. Know what it was like to be there.

Then turn it into words—communicate! This is the hard part, and you won’t know if you’ve done it until you talk to someone else who read what you wrote. It takes lots of hard work, plus some trial and error, to learn to take what’s in your head and put it down on the page so that someone else can understand it.

But keep trying, because if you can do it, then somewhere, someday, someone will be sitting there with your book in their lap, dripping tears onto the page, because they feel how you felt when you wrote those words, and the power is coming through.

Bio: Rebecca writes science fiction and fantasy, reviews books for young readers every Monday at, and posts on Tuesdays at

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Blog-cation Celebration! (now with more free books!)

Hey guys! Contest information at the bottom of this post!

I've not taken a blog vacay too often, but this month is stacking up to be monumental in proportions.

I've got five wonderful friends lined up to do guest posts all week (yay!) but I won't be around--on this blog or any other blog.

Conveniently enough, this is also about the same time that my To-Be-Read pile is about to collapse in upon itself, forming a black hole of destruction. celebrate my first blog vacation in a loooooong time, I'm going to be giving away some books from my TBR pile! And to keep things interesting...I'm not gonna tell you which ones. It's safe to say they're none of the ones that I've reviewed (as I've not read them yet, obvs) but that they ARE similar to the books I read and review. So--probably YA/MG, a few really select good adult titles, a combo of ARC, hardback and paper back.

AND...there will be THREE winners.

Winner One: For the winner of this contest, you need to guess how big my feed reader is going to get. I subscribe to LOTS of blogs--and try to keep up. But this week--from Sunday to Sunday--I'm not going to check a single one. Which means they'll pile up in my Google Feed Reader. Whoever gets closest--without going over--to the actual number of unread blogs I've got in my Feed Reader by noon next Sunday, will win three random books.

Winner Two: Just because I'm not going to be around doesn't mean I don't want to be in the loop. I love learning new and interesting things about writing, publishing, and the market. I also love random things like technology (omg: still nerd spazzing), comics, and other funny things. Y'all know what I like. To win this entry, you need to find the coolest, most amazing thing on the internet and post a link in the comment section TO THIS POST. Whoever leaves me the coolest, most amazing thing on the internet (links to websites, videos, blogs, whatever) wins one random book--but if I really like it, I might just throw in more. PS: This one is totally subjective to my whims and fancies. Yay, random!

Winner Three:  Finally, I don't want to forget my lazy people who don't want to guess random numbers or find cool things on the interwebs for me. So, if you just want to enter for a random prize, then just sign up for one and you might win three random books! There are definitely extra entry options on this one, too.

...buh-what?! Winner FOUR:  I like nice round numbers. AND 3 is my lucky number. So...if I get just 23 more followers--enough to get 300 followers--by next Sunday, one of my lucky 300 followers will get two completely awesome and yet totally random prizes that aren't books but are really cool and if you were a subscriber to my newsletter, you'd totally know what one of the prizes was.

And, yes, you can enter all four contests. Contest closes next Sunday at noon. Winners announced soonish after that.

TO ENTER: Fill in the form below. I'm ONLY accepting entries on the form below.

Friday, February 5, 2010

OMG YOU GUYS. I found it. THE ONE.

Okay. OKAY. I KNOW that I went all nerd spaz over the iPad.

And I still think the iPad is pretty darn cool. I trust the Apple name, and I seriously considered buying one.

But then I saw this.


enTourage eDGe.
(Why isn't there a chorus of angels signing every time someone says its name?)

I AM SO GOING TO BUY ONE OF THESE AS SOON AS MY TAX MONEY COMES BACK. (And PS: it's not that expensive. About $500. Really--for what it does, not bad AT ALL.)

It is everything I ever dreamed of.

It is--essentially--a Kindle and an iPad COMBINED.

If a netbook and an e-reader got drunk one night and had a love child, THIS IS IT.


On the left side is the e-book--with the e-ink technology Kindle uses--AND AND AND it has the ability to scribble notes on WITH A STYLUS or a ON-BOARD KEYBOARD and it can highlight and basically fulfill your dreams. On the right-side is a netbook--although this is limited. You don't have the fancy apps that iPad has, and it's mostly internet-able (as opposed to work-ready. No word processor that I could see. Which--I admit--is the only thing I see as a detrimental factor. But it does have the ability to hook up to a USB keyboard, and access to Google, so I could always use Google Docs if I wanted to type.)

And it's pretty.

For reals.

This is what I want.

It's practically perfect.

I want an e-reader that can do the following:
  • Read books with low battery usage
    • If I just wanna read for fun, I want a simple e-reader (iPad fails at this)
    • This is because I plan on uploading my own work and using this to edit. Also: manuscript critique. OMG how much easier would crits be with this feature?! (Kindle fails at this. There's a note feature, but not a handwriting note feature.)
  • Have both e-ink and color
    • IPad and Kindle fail at this. It's one or the other with them.
  • Be able to check email, surf, and type longer documents than in-text notes
    • If I want to add a chapter to the manuscript I'm editing, I want to be able to type it on a decent keyboard. This device does this.
    • Kindle does not at all do this
    • iPad sort of does this--but not simultaneously, with the ability to see both the document and the type screen.
The enTourage eDGe does all this.


Seriously guys. Go check out this link. DO IT. It's a demo of all the stuff enTourage eDGe can do.

cNet did a bit of a review here.

Edited to add:
A bit more research shows that this thing is EVEN MORE PERFECT for writers than I originally thought. It is going to be shipped with a program that enables MS Office document creation.
A few months ago when we first spoke with the folks behind the Entourage eDGe dual-screen eReader/netbook/tablet they told us they were working with Android app developers to create or modify apps that would work on the device’s larger screens. One such app they hoped to procure for the launch was Documents To Go by DataViz which would allow eDGe users to open, edit and create MS Office documents out of the box. Today the company officially announced that the software will be available on the dualbook and, even better news, users won’t have to pay extra. 

Guys. It reads. It writes. It plays music and video. It has a recorder and camera (conferencing ans Skype, anyone?). It even has the mighty intarwebs.

What more can we want?!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Which is Better?

Hey! There's a poll at the end of this post--I'd really appreciate it if you'd vote and give me some of your thoughts. kthxbaiurock.

So, I recently read this article at Salon about whether or not book trailers were actually good marketing tools for writers. They made the point that while some book trailers are well done (including Scott Westerfeld's latest one for Leviathan), it might not really do much good.
And even so, how many readers outside of Westerfeld's devoted fan base are likely to see it? As a general rule, people don't go looking for ads on the Web (unless they're -- inexplicably -- seeking commercials they've already seen and liked on TV). If they are motivated enough to search for Westerfeld's name on YouTube, look his books up on Amazon or seek out his Web site, they've already made it past the most formidable barrier: the crushing obscurity in which the vast majority of authors languish.
The article did make an interesting point, though--that a well-done author interview can be more effective than a high priced book trailer.

And I thought: why not compare?

Here's an author interview with Maria Snyder that's just been released in which she talks about her latest book Sea Glass. I found it really interesting--especially (did you know?) because I learned that Maria's husband was a food taster. How cool! And I liked the touch with Orlando Bloom... :)

But there's also an excellent book trailer out with Maria's Storm Glass. It is actually really one of the better book trailers out there--you guys know I'm picky, so that fact that I'm giving this one the Beth Seal of Approval should count for something.

And, lest we forget, there's the tool that I mentioned earlier: one of the best widgets for a book promo I've ever seen. It isn't a simple countdown--it's a dynamic marketing tool.

So, there you have it: three different online marketing tools by the same author for the same book series of the same high quality.