Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dear English Teachers of the World:

 Please quit teaching students that you "just add a comma whenever you feel like the sentence needs a pause." That is a lie, and it's wrong to lie to children.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go rip out all my hair and scream in desperation at the state of grammar in the world and the dismal future of grammatically correct students.

Edited to add: By popular demand, here's the link to my posts on how to do grammar simply. :)

Today in Class: Midterms, Part II

I'm still grading midterms. That is the curse of the teacher. There is always more to grade.

Question: Extra Credit: In the space below, list any additional knowledge you have gained from this class that isn't on the test. It can be anything--just prove to me you learned something new.

Answer: I learned that being stupid in class means I will get smacked in the head.


Well, technically, that is something he learned in class..... 

Edited to add:

[same question: list any additional info learned in class]

Answer: I learned that miss revis dont play an we need to listen. ... An plays in Greece where weird an nasty. Come on now, marrying your mother?    

[other student: same question]

 Answer: I learned that I need to study more!

[other student: same question]

Answer: I learned to wright better.  [*facepalm*] 

Inspiration in Life and Anonymity

It's the most common question a writer gets.

Where do you get your ideas?

Dude. I dunno. They're just there. Like pimples. You go to bed all like, "I have a pretty face," and you wake up with a zit on your nose. Ideas are like that. You go to bed all like, "I am a hack and I can't come up with an original idea evar," and you wake up with an idea ricocheting off your brain.

But I figure that if I had to give an answer that didn't involve pus-filled-pustules-that-are-the-bane-of-teenagers, then I'd give a two-fold answer.

Where do you get your ideas? Life.

I can't take credit for this one. KL Going said it.
Life is more important than writing. Living my life, to the fullest, experiencing the world, traveling, tasting, seeing new things, loving my family and friends, learning interesting skills...this is where success lies, not in being published. The beautiful twist is that these are also the very things that will infuse my writing with heart.
When I'm stuck and I need an idea, I sometimes break the Butt-in-Chair mantra. BIC is a good solution to writer's block--often the best and only solution. But when I'm really stuck, I get up and do something. Something new. I go to a new restaurant and try food I've never had before. I turn down the roads that I always pass on my drives to and from work--you know, the roads that go off in the distance and you always kind of wonder where they go, but you never have time to explore. I just go for a walk. Something. Because living life leads you to stories.

Where do you get your ideas? What if.

The most important question a writer can ever ask is simply: what if. What if? What if he met her? What if she hated him? What if the prophecy couldn't come true? What if the hero was a bad guy? What if aliens landed right now?

Have you ever looked at a person on the street and wondered what she was going to do that day? Or have you ever wondered what that guy you work with would do if some extreme situation landed in his lap?

That's what you do with writing. You explore the what if. Ideas spring from that.

Check out this video. Fifty people were asked one simple question: where would you like to wake up tomorrow? They each had a different answer. They each have a different story. The girl who wants to wake up at home with her parents if very different from the boy who wants to wake up next to his father's tombstone.

So: where do YOU get your ideas?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Today in Class: Midterms

I'm grading midterms. (So I'm two weeks late in grading them. Don't judge me.)

Question #5. What did Socrates mean by his quote, "All I know is that I know nothing?" Apply your answer to his philosophy.

Kid's Answer: That means people think they know alot of thinks, but when all said and done they dont really know nuthing.

Darn us, all thinking we know a lot of thinks. 

[Edited to add: I just got to the kid whose answer on the question about linking the Epic of Gilgamesh to Ancient Sumerian belief systems was simply: "Gilgamesh was a douchebag." It's not the right answer, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tempted to give him partial credit.]

Enter Contests!

I was interviewed by Miss Snark's First Victim! This happened yesterday, and most of you have already seen it, but I was walking around in a NyQuil cloud all day long yesterday (allergies...ugh), and I thought I had posted about the interview, but when I checked today, clearly, I had not. That, or Blog Gnomes stole my post.

It was probably the Blog Gnomes. Nasty little buggers.

Anyway, before the Blog Gnomes hit, I didn't post about the interview as I'd intended, I wanted to post about contests.

Do you enter contests? Jay Asher (author of THIRTEEN REASONS WHY) is well known for his support of contests:
I also entered every writing contest I could find, winning a few along the way, and some of them brought me in contact with agents and editors that later came in handy. The community I found at the conferences and the confidence I gained by winning contests is what kept me going through all the rejection letters.

I'll be honest--I never really bothered with contests very much before I read Jay's opinion. I don't often do short fiction, and when I do write short fiction, it's always very much genre, not literary, and that has always seemed like a harder sell to me.

As I continued writing seriously, with the intent for publication, I started paying more attention to contests. Writing doesn't have to be a cocoon, and contests help assure that you aren't cushioning yourself in privacy.

Be careful where you submit your work to contests. Some charge money, some have strict guidelines, some expect you to give up publication rights, some aren't worth your time, and some are, frankly, shady scams.

And figure out what you're going into the contest for. Is it to win a prize? Is it for feedback? Those are two very different types of contests, and you'll be better off if you decide before you start which you want more.

For me, I sought feedback. Here are some of the best contests I tried for:
  • Miss Snark's First Victim
    • The prize for these is usually agent attention--"winners" get a leg up in submitting a partial or full
    • It's helpful, though, because nearly everyone who submits will also go through the other entries, giving feedback. Everyone gets at least feedback from the agent.
  • Query Tracker
    • Occasionally, QT organizes contests with agents. These are usually pitch contests, where you submit a one-sentence pitch.
    • Losers don't get feedback, but there is often a post before and after the contest explaining what makes a good pitch, why the winners were selected, etc.
There are other places that aren't exactly contests but that still provide feedback:
  • Jodi Meadow's Query Project
    • Jodi was a slush reader at a literary agency and certainly has experience with reading queries and knowing what works or doesn't, especially when it comes to the details.
  • Query Shark
    • This is Janet Reid's query blog. So be prepared--she holds no punches. You can learn a lot just from reading the archives, without entering.
  • Evil Editor
    • You can submit a query or a first page here. You'll be gently mocked--but overall, you'll get an idea of where your query makes readers get lost.
  • KT Literary "About My Query"
    • Kate Testerman is a literary agent, and her "About My Query" project breaks down queries into what works and what doesn't. Comments are often very helpful here.
Lest you think I'm throwing you to the wolves (or sharks), you should know that I am recommending each of these places based on my own experience. I entered them all, and I learned from them all. In fact, the first submission I did for ACROSS THE UNIVERSE was to Miss Snark's First Victim contest, which Jodi was judging in her capacity as a slush reader. I didn't win--but the feedback I got from them helped me to change my first chapter and query into something better.

So, what are the best sites you have for contests and feedback?

Monday, April 26, 2010

What Should You Expose Yourself To?

In case you missed it, this happened over the weekend. [Edited to add: the blog author has, apparently, taken down the offensive post since Sunday, when I wrote this.] A vitriolic response to rejections that led to some pretty nasty name calling of agents who actively try to help instead of hurt new writers. A response that went somewhat viral, thanks in part to the Absolute Write forum calling the writer out. It's a train wreck. I hesitate to point it out, because I don't want her to gain any more fame infamy, but she's not the point of the post, just the source.

What surprised me in reading the comments, though, is that in amongst the intelligent comments of other writers pointing out that the author was shooting herself in the foot professionally and was, frankly, wrong in her assessment of the agents in question, there were a few who seemed to view this hate-filled rant as something positive. They commiserated with the author. They weren't just sympathetic to her feelings...they agreed with her. That response baffled me. Heck, she has around 75 followers who read and comment on her blog dedicated solely to rejection. Sure, the publishing industry is, at times, frustrating and even depressing. But to sling mud at agents who are specifically intent on helping new authors?

Then I happened to stumble upon Seth Godin's blog. One post in particular really moved me to comment about the whole situation:

Expose yourself...

With so many options in media, interaction and venues, you now get to choose what you expose yourself to.

Expose yourself to art, and you'll come to appreciate it and aspire to make it.

...Expose yourself to anger and you might get angry too.

Expose yourself to people making smart decisions and you'll probably learn how to do it as well.

...It's a choice if you want it to be.

It's that last line that really sings: "It's a choice if you want it to be." Because it is. You can choose to follow someone like the author of the vitriolic blog and expose yourself to rejection, despondence, and hopelessness. And you will, in all probability, end up bitter, angry, and vitriolic yourself.

Or you could choose to expose yourself to hope. To agents who care about new authors and try to make them better. To agents who point out your mistakes so you learn to not do them again. To websites that help you be professional. To published authors who always put a positive spin on writing or aspiring authors who seize life's opportunities or aspiring publishing professionals who are always professional or writers who use their blogs to do good for other writers.

You can look at publishing as impossible, a wasted dream, a soul-killing rejection machine.

You can look at publishing as a chance, an opportunity, a challenge.

It is a choice if you want it to be.

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
-- Thomas Edison

So, what do YOU expose yourself to? What are your top sources for information, inspiration, and industry?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Love Triangles, Part 3: Starring YOU

I give up.

Y'all are better than me.

So to wrap this up, here's some of my favorite comments from Thursday. Starring: YOU.

Bethany Elizabeth said...
I know this is kind of unrelated, but the thing I always think of is 'Love Conquers All.' I agree, but what exactly does it mean? People die in wars, love doesn't conquer that. People get married to please their families, love doesn't conquer that. People choose loyalty over romance, love doesn't conquer that. What I mean by 'love conquers all' isn't that everything works out all right in the end. When love conquers, sometimes you wish it wouldn't. The tears and well-tended flowers by the grave, the blown kiss out the window before returning to a spouse's bed, the knowledge that you will never, never fall in love again, because love has conquered you utterly and completely, and will not release its hold. To me, the best love triangles are the ones where it doesn't necessarily work out. Not just because it's deliciously tragic, but because you can see the love so much more clearly. Sometimes, loyalty or platonic love is deeper than romance. Can I love a character, root for them, when in the end they make the ultimately selfish decision because 'love cannot be denied?' Maybe, but I'll like them less in the end.
Tricia J. O'Brien said...
Beth, this is such excellent discussion. I would add that the depth in Tristan and Isolde includes more than the love affair. Tristan and Mark are linked by blood, history and the desire to make their homeland stable. For Tristan to weaken Mark is to weaken his country. And Mark loves both Tristan and Isolde, so he is not only hurt by discovering their actions, he suffers for hurting two people he cares about. Isolde, too, is torn between loving one man with passion and the other with respect. So the story works because it is about more than passion, it's about real love and honor and what that means beyond the scope of their individual lives.
Robin L said...
Okay, first of all, thanks to Deva for pointing me to this great discussion! I think the point made about everyone involved in the love triangle needing to be aware of the pain they will cause those they love is absolutely essential. There needs to be an emotional cost to their choices. Another thing that I think makes love triangles work is when the choice of who to love or end up with echoes the protagonist's own internal journey and mirrors the the two selves she is choosing between as she moves toward the end of the book. That's why I think the Dale/Peeta choice works so well--who Katniss ultimately chooses will reinforce or cement her internal decision on who she is going to be and what sort of world she lives in. A world where love is hard and often silent, or a world where love is front and center and costs much. The choice of who to love also reflects a fundamental decision on who she wants to be. If that makes any sense...
Chantal Kirkland said...
I don't usually weigh-in on this kind of thing, but I feel like I should. Jamie Harrington over at made a good point the other day about love triangles not really being triangles at all. But, really, I think the issue here, for both you and Jamie is that you like REAL love triangles, not the love-V's that we see sometimes. It's all in the depth of the story and the connections between characters. That's what makes a love triangle a triangle and not a point. Or a bow-tie (ask Jamie).
Guinevere said...
I'd say likable main characters for all three participants in the triangle -- otherwise you're rooting for one of them to lose out anyway, and that takes away all the tension and pain as a reader. I think that's one of the things that makes the "love triangle" so effective in fiction. I hate the Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot triangle, but perhaps only because my first name is Guinevere, and that whole story ends in nothing but tears (and a nunnery for poor Queen Guinevere, in most traditional versions).
Dominique said...
I think the key element is true love. Too often you see stories where it's a triangle of "You're hot. I want to get with you," against "Dude, she was totally with me first," paired with the reaction "Well, you're both really great guys, and I'm totally into you all being into me, and I just don't want to make up my mind." I love good love triangles, but there should be love in there or it's meaningless.
Thanks for contributing guys! This is exactly what I love about blogging: sharing a conversation.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Love Triangles, Part 2

OK, guys? You are all seriously awesome. Seriously. When I posted about love triangles, I had no idea how awesomely you guys would comment. Because honestly? Those were some freaking cool comments.

Many of you made great contributions to the conversations (go read them if you've not yet), but I want to call out two in particular.

First, Deva said:
Second (and I think it was author RJ Anderson who said this on her blog) that the really good love trianges are actual *triangles*. As in, there are connections (not necessarily romantic) between all three people involved. Like Arthur-Guinevere-Lancelot, or Buffy-Angel-Spike, or even Elphaba-Fiyero-Glinda. I would agree that triangles like that, where everyone is making some sort of choice and risking hurting someone they love, are much more interesting and compelling.

And I so agree with her. Look, here's the thing. If, in the love triangle, the only one who risks getting hurt is the third wheel, nothing's at stake really. It becomes a simple equation: 3-1=2. And we all know, simple doesn't make good literature. Complications make good literature.

Let's use the example Deva gave: WICKED. I'm going to keep it fairly general, but there may be some spoilers involved, so be warned!

The love triangle in WICKED involved Elphie, the green witch, Glinda the white witch, and Fiyero, the hot guy. Glinda and Fiyero become the beautiful couple, and its a very expected romance. But when Glinda becomes best friends with Elphie...and when Elphie and Fiyero start to fall in love...and when Elphie's quest for justice overshadows her desire for love...and when Glinda questions what it means to have a perfect life...and when Fiyero must break free from what people expect of him versus following his heart...well, see how complicated that can be? It's not a matter of two girls loving the same guy and the guy just picks. There's consequences on either side of his decision--and there's consequences for both girls, too.

More than that, though, is the fact that this storyline utilizes dynamic characters. All three of them change as they grow. Elphie learns that she's loveable. Glinda learns that good can be ugly. Fiyero learns that true love is more important than appearances. And--and this is what's crucial to the triangle--by changing who they are, they change who they love.

Let's look at another example. Yesterday, Tricia said:
Fascinating post and discussion. I like the point Deva brought up about the best triangles having real connections between all three. I think that is vital, because the stakes are higher and usually have more depth. In Tristan and Isolde, there is also Marke, the king. Tristan falls in love with Isolde before she is wed to Marke. There are strong connections between all three, and it ends tragically when Tristan takes the noble route of protecting his king and losing his love.
I am so glad Tricia reminded me of Tristan, Isolde, and Mark. This is an excellent example of a love triangle that works--and is also, by the way, possibly the source of the Arthur-Guinevere-Lancelot triangle.

There are many different source legends, but the basics are as follows: Tristan is the nephew of King Mark, and Mark sends Tristan off to Ireland to collect his arranged bride, Isolde. Isolde isn't exactly looking forward to marriage and her maid whipped up a love potion--which accidentally causes Tristan and Isolde to fall in love in transit to Mark. Mark and Isolde get married--this is the Dark Ages, and arranged marriages stick. Despite Tristan's devotion to his uncle and despite Isolde's allegiance to her husband, they carry on an affair that, of course, doesn't end well.

Here's what makes this love triangle work (as Tricia points out): both parties are acutely aware that their love will cause someone they love to hurt.

This is what makes love triangles all to often not work for me. I intensely dislike it when the main character is aware that two people like him or her, and don't seem conscious of the feelings of both parties. In a love triangle, someone is going to get hurt. That's the nature of the problem. And that's fine--that is the logical outcome of any love triangle.

But how can I like a character who doesn't consider the feelings of the guy or girl who loses out? That's just cruel.

But in the case of Tristan and Isolde, both of the other parties truly care about the third part of the triangle, Mark. That's what makes the story so tragic--not just because they have doomed love, but because their doomed love leads them to hurting someone else they love.

OK! I feel like I talked enough, and you guys proved yesterday that you're smarter than me. So, you tell me: what's the single most important characteristic of a love-triangle that makes them work? Or, what's a better example of a love-triangle than the ones I gave here?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Love Triangles

All this talk about THE IRON KING has got me thinking about love triangles.

I don't like them.


Because, honestly, it feels that usually the love triangle is tacked on by the writer to create tension. It's a way of purposefully throwing in a problem for the main character, build angst, and--more often than not--give the writer a chance to be Mary Sue.


Some love triangles are really well done. And when they're done right, I adore them.

Love Triangles Done Right:
  • THE HUNGER GAMES: Katniss-Peeta-Gale
    • What makes this one work? Because we, the reader, understand perfectly why Katniss is torn between both guys. She exists in a world where love as an emotion is honestly not valued--she can't afford to love. Although Peeta's love for her is true, it's based on emotions, not survival instinct. 
    • Would Katniss recognize the love triangle around her? Yes--but she wouldn't revel in it. She doesn't want to make this decision. It's another constraint of the world in which she lives.
  • THE IRON KING: Meghan-Puck-Ash
    • What makes this one work? Because there's no conflict of emotion. Meghan is physically attracted to Ash, Ash is attracted to Meghan based on his relationships in the past, and while Puck has grown to love Meghan, Meghan justifiably doesn't notice that love because she thinks of him as a friend.
    • Would Meghan recognize the love triangle? No. She legitimately does not see Puck's love for her.
    • What makes this one work? Because Mary lives in a world where marriage is not an option, and the selection of her husband is not up to her. While she loves Travis, she cannot go against her society when her marriage is arranged with his brother Harry. Additionally, both Travis and Harry are good men, making the love triangle more angst-y.
    • Would Mary recognize the love triangle? Yes, but her world dictates the terms.
  • EYES LIKE STARS: Bertie-Nate-Ariel
    • What makes this one work? Bertie loves Nate, but Ariel's obsession with Bertie gets both of them in trouble. Bertie may have some physical attraction to Ariel, but she doesn't love him emotionally and prefers Nate despite Ariel's creepy stalker-ish-ness.
    • Would Bertie recognize the love triangle? No--to her, there's Nate, and Ariel's obsession with her isn't mutual.
    • PS: Doesn't the cover of the sequel, PERCHANCE TO DREAM, look awesome? Seems like the love triangle will be a huge influence in this one...

  •   A love triangle works best if the triangle exists because of world constraints (i.e. arranged marriages) or when the love triangle is not conscious of the main character. If the main character knows that two guys are totally obsessing over her (*cough*Twilight*cough*), then the love triangle doesn't work (at least for me) because then I feel that the main character is basically playing the other characters, stringing them along and soaking in the attention. 
  • When there are world constraints, a love triangle becomes believable. It also becomes a part of the plot--it's not an excuse for angst, but a driving force in the plot of the novel as a whole.
  • When the main character is not conscious of the love triangle--and this must be done in a believable fashion so that the main character doesn't look gullible--then the love triangle is not essential to the plot, but does build on the characters. For example, in EYES LIKE STARS, Bertie's dismissal of Ariel and devotion to Nate is an essential part of her characterization--which leads to the plot twist when Bertie must turn to Ariel for help and Nate must pay the price.
So, what do you think? Do you like love triangles, or hate them? What are some done right...or done very wrong?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Want Signed Bookmarks?


The first two people to email me their address (bethrevis at will get a signed bookmark by Julie Kagawa! Perfect for that copy of THE IRON KING I know you're going to buy!

Quick! Go email me and get a signed book mark!

Edited to add: Too late! I've got my two!!! Congrats Candy & Precious!

Interview: Julie Kagawa, author of THE IRON KING

Julie Kagawa is one awesome chick. Need proof? Look at her awesome hair! I've always wanted silver hair, but if I died mine, it would just look frumpy and gray.

Anyway, Julie graciously agreed to answer some of my questions, and so, without further ado, here is the author of the amazingly-awesome book THE IRON KING! 


We can all read about your bio from the back of your book or your FAQ online. So, what's a completely random fact about you that most people don't know?
That I lived in Hawaii for ten years, and never learned to swim. Also, I have reoccurring nightmares about tornadoes.

As a child, what was your favorite book? Have your tastes changed since growing up?
My favorite book as small child was Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. My fascination with monsters started early. As I got older, I started reading fantasy and never really stopped; all my favorite books are fantasy books.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A veterinarian. Then I discovered all the science and math you had to study to become a vet, and since numbers hate me I decided to be an author instead.


How much of you is in your book? Is there a character like you? Is a situation in the book derived from real life?
There is probably a tiny bit of me in all my characters. And like Meghan, I was a loner and an outcast at school, so I know what it feels like to be teased and shunned. Though I never endured the humiliation Meghan faced at the beginning of the novel, I can very easily imagine what it would be like.

What was your timeline for the book? How long did it take to write, revise, submit, and finally, get published?
The Iron King took me a little under two months to write. It was my NaNo Wrimo project (where you have to write 50,000 words in a month) and I was super eager to finish, so I set my deadline and typed like a madwoman until it was done. At that time, Harlequin Teen was just starting to look for new submissions, and they bought it a few weeks after I finished.

If your readers could only take away one emotion, theme, or idea from the book, what would you want that to be?
Wonder at the world around them, that there might be a hidden universe right under our noses, and that we just might catch a glimpse if we look hard enough.

What are your goals as an author? Where do you want to see yourself as a writer in 5, 10, 15 years?
I want to keep writing for as long as my fingers work. So, fifteen years down the road, I want to be doing exactly what I'm doing now.

What's the most surprising thing you've learned since becoming a writer?
I was shocked at discovering the YA blogger community. Who knew there was such a huge online community of people who loved YA books? I've met so many awesome people because of it, and its truly been a pleasure.

Beyond the typical—never give up, believe in yourself—what would be the single best advice you'd like to give to an aspiring author?
Keep trying to make yourself better. Learn all you can about the craft and the publishing world. You can always get better, and the only way to get better is to keep at it.

What do you consider to be your strongest talent in writing? Your weakest?
My strongest talent, hmmm....I'm not really sure. I'll let the readers decide on that one. As for my weakest, I'm very easily distracted. The internet has been the bane of my writing life of late, what with Twitter and Facebook and blogger and email and everything. I can spend hours on Twitter and other sites, so much that I've recently taken to turning off the internet when I'm working, just to stop Tweetdeck from chirping at me every two minutes.

What's a writing pet peeve that you have?
Cats on the writing desk. I cannot work when there is a cat staring at me over the monitor (probably because its usually my black cat, Shinobi, who has the habit of either waving his tail across the screen, or knocking over my Mt. Dew to get a reaction). Cats on the writing desk is a no-no, so of course they constantly try to get away with it.

Thank you again, Julie, for the interview!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Writer's Book Review: Julie Kagawa's THE IRON KING

Why I got this book: I won this book as a prize from Sharon at Sharon Loves Books and Cats. I thought the book sounded interesting at the time, but didn't really have plans to buy it. It was a dark fairy story, I knew that much, but that didn't seem to make it stand out from the crowd of dark fairy stories out there--and I'd read some bad ones lately, so wasn't too excited to pick this one up. BUT I WAS WRONG. OH SO WRONG. This book is totally addictive, with a fun story, awesome characters, and great twists.

Elsewhere on the web: Julie blogs here, and has a static website here. The original review by Sharon that first caught my interest here.

Five sentence summary: Meghan Chase has a typical un-fairy-tale-like life: a mom who sometimes breaks her promises, a step-dad who can barely remember she's there, a baby brother who's cute, and a friend named Robbie who's not just her best friend--he's her only friend. And if she half believe her brother when he says there are monsters in his closet, she can push them down. But when the monsters in his closet kidnap her baby brother--leaving a fierce and dangerous changling in his place--Meghan must enter the Nevernever, find the fairies, and get her brother back. She's got help--her friend Robbie is actually Robin Goodfellow (better known as Puck), and she picks up a cat named the Grimalkin (think: the Cheshire Cat). Then there's Ash. He's definitely not her friend--he's a prince for the Winter Court, and plans to make Meghan a prisoner there--but Meghan can't help but be attracted to him as she faces the Iron Fey enemy.

So, what can we, as writers, learn from this book?

1. Consequences: This is my favorite part of the book. Really. I love how the characters decisions have serious and real consequences. When someone gets hurt, they stay hurt--there is no magic fairy tale cure. Titania, Queen of the Summer Fey, hates Meghan because of her link with Oberon, the King. Meghan eats fruit in the fairy land (which she's been warned not to) and the team loses and entire day while she recovers from its effects.

The best consequence is also a spoiler. Highlight the following to read. At one point, Meghan must go to an oracle to discover how to get to her brother. The oracle demand a price: a memory from Meghan. When the oracle exacts the price, we as readers don't know exactly what memory was taken. By the end of the book, though, it becomes apparent that the memory taken was of her father--and it doesn't appear that this memory can ever be replaced. It's gone for good.

2. Twists on Magic: At first, I was a little off-put by how typical the magic world was. The Summer Court and the Winter Court was nothing new--even less so if you've read Melissa Marr. But Julie had a reason for setting up the "typical"--she was laying the foundation for how different the other sort of magic--the Iron Fey--work. Julie was able to create a convincing world that twists from the typical fairy tale world by extending our expectations of fairy tales and spinning them into a new world. Because of this, the groundwork for why a new type of magic--Iron Magic--can exist.
3. Love Triangle: ACK! Another love triangle!!! But...this one's good. I mean, really good. It's not Jacob-Bella-Edward. Nononono. This love triangle is totally believable, and very heart-wrenching. On the one hand, you have Puck. Puck, the fun, flightly, prankster who clearly loves Meghan. And Meghan's inability to see Puck's love is understandable and not frustrating--I can totally see why she'd miss it. On the other hand, you have Ash, prince of the Winter Court. Totally cold, totally distant...totally hot. But he loves Meghan for her choices and her loyalty, making that love believable, too.

Look, guys, I don't like love triangles unless they're done well. This one is. It's as good a love triangle as Katniss, Peeta, and Gale.

Quibbles: I expected certain things from a modern fairy tale--the main girl character to be an outsider, reviled by cheerleaders, with no friends, etc., etc., etc. THE IRON KING started off in this fashion--which didn't grab my interest, because it was so expected. But I stuck with it because the writing was so addictive.

The Bottom Line: A fun, fun read. If you like your beach reads to have some thought behind them and still be a little steamy, totally go for this one.

PS: In case you can't tell, I'm TOTALLY TEAM PUCK. Which makes me sad--I think the book is pointing us toward Meghan and Ash being together, but I still want it to be Puck! Puck is fun, funny, and his love is based on years of being with Meghan. He's the best friend who fell in love. I *so* want him to be with Meghan in the end!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Today in Class: Invaders

Today in class, we're studying Chinese literature. I was giving a little background on China, and the Great Wall came up. 

 Me: The Great Wall was used to keep out invaders from the north. What invaders were coming into China?

Kid: The Mongolians!

Me: Exactly! What's a famous Mongolian invader who attacked China?

Kid: Chaka Khan!

Me: *facepalm*

Monday, April 12, 2010


Will return after reboot a bucket of coffee.

(Idea shamelessly stolen from the Rejectionist, who apparently crashed when I did. Picture stolen from here.)

Winner: Signed Copy of INSIDE OUT!

The winner of the signed copy of INSIDE OUT is:

Heidi V.


Winners of signed Maria Snyder bookmarks:
Angelique/Vampires and Tofu
Jenny Medenwald
Weronika Janczuk

And don't worry if you didn't win...I've got one more big contest up my sleeves that I'm preparing for you guys... :)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Do NOT Miss This!!!

What are you doing here? Go here instead. Rockstar-Book-Girls Lisa and Laura are doing an interview with a top TOP publishing professional who is totally secret. As they say:
There's a new totally mysterious, completely anonymous publishing blogger on the interwebs and she ROCKS. Today we're welcoming the amazing Ms. BookSniper for a guest blog.
So go! NOW!!! Ask your publishy questions! And you will get answers...and possibly PRIZES! (OK no prizes...except the prize of KNOWLEDGE.)

An Analysis of the Writer Online: Maria Snyder's Online Presence

Have I convinced you to buy Maria Snyder's INSIDE OUT yet? And have you clicked on my contest on Monday for a chance to win a signed copy, or signed Maria Snyder bookmarks? DO IT!

Today, I'm going to focus on the internet presence of an author. I've been thinking a lot about this lately, including what kinds of things I want to do to change up my own website. So today, let's check out what Maria's doing online.

First things first: Maria's author page. An author page is important--I honestly don't know why any writer whose works is published or will be published doesn't already have a web page. Readers want to know what you write--and YOUR link should be the first thing that pops up on Google. If not, you risk losing a potential reader. It's that simple.

It's even more important if you're a multi-book author, like Maria. Now you need a webpage that gathers together all your work in one place--so if someone reads and loves INSIDE OUT, you now have a convenient way to find the author. Let's face it--as an author, it's your name that's the brand people look for.

Maria's got a great online presence already. Her personal homepage is easy to find and well laid out.
Now, I know some of you are going to look at that and go, "eh." It's not flashy. There's no graphics jumping out at you, no background music, there's not even a Flash intro.

Which is GREAT.

For an author page, information is key. Which means: don't hide your information with lots of bells and whistles! I see this all the time when I look for an author's email. Let's say I read and loved a book. You guys know this isn't a book blogger site, but if there's a book I truly love, then I want to feature it with a review and an interview. So, I've read Awesome Book, and look for Awesome Author's webpage. I click on Awesome Author's webpage...and can't find her contact info. Sometimes I'll click around, try a few of the randomly named pages ("musings" is common, as are other cutesy phrases that don't really tell you what the page actually is). If I can't find the email address in a matter of seconds, or if the page itself has so many bells and whistles that it doesn't load almost immediately...I don't feature that book on this blog. Period. There are too many other books out there that have what I need instantly. I don't want to have to dig through fancy graphics, cute-but-meaningless fluff, and Flash intros just to find what I'm looking for.

Take a look, also, at the kind of information Maria has. She's got the typical--contact info, reviews, etc., but she also very cleverly grouped all her book covers into one place, has a separate sections for writers (which I appreciate), and has a pretty unique contest page. Seriously. Go check that out. She includes a very clever idea for a referral program...and a way to get more readers to her website and her series.

So--all of that was what an AUTHOR webpage should look like. But what about a BOOK webpage? Recently, Harlequin Teen developed and launched a webpage specifically for INSIDE OUT

And it's loaded with bells and whistles. There's sound, jumping text, Flash, moving pictures, video. Everything.
Which is GREAT.

Look, a BOOK website is different from an AUTHOR website. A book website should be where all the cool effects are. It should have the fancy stuff, the eye-grabbing details that make you curious. 

It should be fun--there's games on the INSIDE OUT website that are just pure fluff, but fun. It should be interactive. I can click here, there, find new stuff, make discoveries. It should grab my attention: the sounds and video that automatically play when the page loads does just that.

It should also have the basic info readily available--which this page does.
The bar at the bottom of the page is easy to find, but doesn't obscure the fancy stuff. If all I want to do is order the book, the first link is right there at my fingertips. If I want to do more--follow on Facebook or Twitter, or anything like that--it's also easily findable and located.

And there you have it. Two examples of what an author should be doing online in her own webpage--easy to read, simple layout, obvious information--and in her book webpage--fun, exciting, and intriguing.

Basically, an AUTHOR website should answer all your questions, but a BOOK website should make you ask questions...questions that get answered when you buy the book.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Interview: Maria Snyder, Author of INSIDE OUT

We continue our INSIDE OUT week with an interview with the author, Maria Snyder herself!

We can all read about your bio from the back of your book or your FAQ online. So, what's a completely random fact about you that most people don't know?
 I'm competitive when I play volleyball. I use to be really laid back and just played to have fun and be with my friends. But now if I'm playing in a league, I want to win!

As a child, what was your favorite book? Have your tastes changed since growing up?
Back when I was reading picture books, I loved Frederick by Leo Lionni. When I was older, I read a ton of mystery novels since my mother enjoyed mysteries. I started with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, and moved on to Agatha Christie, Dick Francis, Robert B. Parker and Ed McBain. It wasn't until my senior year of high school that I started reading science fiction and fantasy. That was when my sister met her future husband and he got me hooked :) I still enjoy a good mystery, but I think the biggest change in my reading habits is I'm more open to a wide variety of genres as well as nonfiction.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A dancer and actress :)

How much of you is in your book? Is there a character like you? Is a situation in the book derived from real life?
I always say that everything I do, everyone I meet, and my entire life experiences are all fodder for my imagination. I enjoy doing hands-on research because it lets me translate an experience into words for my readers. So to answer your question, everything in my books is filtered through me, so there is a part of me in each character and situation. For example, I'm not a psychopath, but I can imagine myself as one (this is where those acting lessons I took come in handy) and I'll try to see the world through his eyes.

What was your timeline for the book? How long did it take to write, revise, submit, and finally, get published? How did you feel at these stages?
I'll start with Poison Study because it was the first book :) It took me a good 3 and a half years to write Poison Study (by the end I was so sick of the story, I thought it was utter crap!) and another 2 years to revise it to a point where I was satisfied enough to send it out to publishers (still wasn't 100% happy, but at that point, I didn't care and just wanted to send it out!). The submission process took another 2 and a half years (almost gave up a couple times, but I had made a list of 20 publishers to send it to and I was determined to finish the list). I found a publisher (Yes! Best phone call ever!) and then another 2 years before the book was actually in the bookstore (longest pregnancy ever!). 10 years total. However, Magic Study took 18 months to write and revise and another 6 months to hit the shelves. Fire Study one year to write/revise. Deadlines were a factor and being able to write full-time as a writer instead of doing it as a hobby. To read the whole rejection/submission process I went through, go to my website  and have a laugh or two :)

[Beth interjects to say: holy cow! Ten years total for POISON STUDY to come out. WOW!!!!]

If your reader could only take away one emotion, theme, or idea from the book, what would you want that to be?
Never give up hope. That there is always a solution to a problem and if you keep trying and working and don't give in, you'll find it.

What are your goals as an author? Where do you want to see yourself as a writer in 5, 10, 15 years?
I've already reach a number of my goals, like hitting the New York Times Bestseller list. But I would like to stay on the list longer than two weeks :) I would also love to win a RITA award (it's given by the Romance Writer's of America), and an Andre Norton award (for a YA science fiction or Fantasy from SFWA). I hope in the future, I'll still be writing and traveling around to do book signings and events. I hope I'm not jaded and still enjoy creating stories and meeting readers.

What's the most surprising thing you've learned since becoming a writer?
How many people within my publisher who touch on my book before it's printed and released. Besides my editor and copy editor, there are the art department, marketing, public relations, sales force, and digital team. It's a vast army of people who work very hard behind the scenes to put the book together.

Beyond the typical—never give up, believe in yourself—what would be the single best advice you'd like to give to an aspiring author?
Watch out for sharks! If a publisher or agent is asking you for money to publish your book, run away! They should pay you for your story not the other way around. There are a ton of con artists out there, looking for writers to swindle. Check references and also check these two excellent sites for publishers and agents to avoid: Writer's Beware, and Predators and Editors.

What do you consider to be your strongest talent in writing? Your weakest?
Strongest: Characterization. Weakest: Grammar.
What's a writing pet peeve that you have?
Passive voice! I always hate to read it in books (including my own!) - all those "was crying" or "was standing" or "was running" - it's "cried" and "stood" and "ran." Drives me crazy!

Thank you, Maria,  for doing the interview with us!!

Monday, April 5, 2010

New Contest: Win Signed INSIDE OUT, Bookmarks!

All this week will be a celebration of INSIDE OUT by Maria Snyder! Long-time readers of this blog will know I'm a big fan of Maria's work (evidence here, here, and here).

Recently, I had a chance to be in on the book promotion of INSIDE OUT and--the best part--got a chance to read INSIDE OUT a bit early.

And dude.

It's freaking awesome.


This week, it's all about the awesome that is INSIDE OUT.

And just so you don't feel jealous, I'm giving away a copy. A signed copy. AND I've got a ton of signed bookmarks for runners up! So there are lots of chances to win!!!!

The only catch? This contest is going to be QUICK. You've only got until Saturday to enter!!! Contest ends April 10th at midnight.


Wow. WOW. I had nearly 200 entrants in the Book Deal Celebration contest, and with the extra entries, there were over ONE THOUSAND chances to win!

The first winner, who wins the prize pack for readers (which includes all this:)

-A $30 gift certificate for Amazon (or other online book seller of your choice). That way you can get whatever books YOU most want to read RIGHT NOW. I've got plenty of good suggestions if you want any, though!
-A "Get Happy" tea set from the Tea Revolution: includes mug, tea, strainer, and top. I can't think of anything better than curling up with a good book and sipping hot tea. Unless, of course, there's chocolate involved. Hey...
-A package of Lindt chocolate truffles, the best chocolate in the world, imo
-A booklight
-A "booksling"--a bookmark that can also hold a pen or highlight for those days you want to read and take notes
-A fancy flower bookmark for those days you just want to read :)
-A sekkrit surprise
-A journal--hey, readers can write, too!
-A star necklace from Avon. I saw this necklace and flipped--it is full of pretty stars. As you guys know, Across the Universe is a science fiction, and stars play a pretty important role in the book.
The Winner of the Reader's Prize Pack (out of 372 entries) is:

The second winner gets the writer's prize pack, which includes all this:
-A critique of your query letter and first three chapters
-A copy of Elana Johnson's super-amazing e-book, From the Query to the Call
-A HUGE bag of chocolate-covered expresso beans from my fav coffee shop, Village Coffee (cause we all know writers need chocolate and coffee)
-A copy of the Working Writer Day Planner, full of tons of helpful info for writers
-A really pretty journal
-Flag-it Post-it Notes that you can use to highlight and mark-up your manuscript as you revise
-A Laini's Ladies (the Muse of Writing one, of course!)
-A "Rolla" style notebook--it's like a binder and notebook in one, with the ablity to add, remove, and move around pages. I thought this would be perfect for organizing editing notes, or to take to a conference
-A sekkrit surprise
-A book-shaped locket. One of the themes in my novel, Across the Universe, is that of leaving home and standing on your own two feet (hence the original title that some of you probably remember: Long Way Home). The locket is shaped like a book with a bird's nest stamped on the front, and a bird flies away from the chain. This was custom made for me by The Enchanted Locket on etsy, and you and I will be the only two people with the original design!
The Winner of the Writer's Prize Pack (out of 1382 entries) is:

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Butterflies at Easter

I know spring is here when the cherry trees outside my house buzz with bees and flutter with butterflies. I couldn't help but take some video of the butterflies and bees in the cherry trees, and it reminded me of Easter. Hope you enjoy!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Live-Blogging: Revisions, This time with Meaning!

The gloves are on. You know, the ones Jodi made me that I featured here. They make me feel all writerly and cool.

And I need to feel all writerly. Because tonight is poker night. Which means my husband has all his buddies over, and they spend all night playing poker or gaming on the XBox. Which means I hole myself up in my office, put on my writerly gloves, and force myself to work all night. Past live-blogging on revisions can be found here and here  and here and here.

How will it go? Stay tuned to find out!

9:42: Got a full glass of SunDrop, my gloves are on, my laptop is charged, and I'm ready to go!

9:55: OK, I've got pretzels to go with the SunDrop, and am NOW ready to go.

9:56: It worries me a bit that some of you might not know what SunDrop is. It's a bit localized. Do any of you not know of the glorious Southern soda?

10:11: I was going to post about how well I'm doing, but then realized I was only on page five.

10:16: The poker buddies wanted to see my article in Publisher's Weekly (they didn't believe my husband). You SO know I hoped up for that!!!

10:22: My friend Heather chatted me up :)

10:27: Jemi didn't know what SunDrop was, which gave me an excuse to look up a pic of it. Basically, it's like Mountain Dew, but better.

10:44: I'm on page six. SIX. I'm going to need more pretzels and SunDrop.

10:53: I won't lie. I went in for chocolate. Don't look at me like that. The Easter bunny came early.

10:55: Distracted by Twitter and chat....Hey, Heather, they're playing our song! I guess that's a hint to get back to work...

11:02: A hint I completely ignored. OK, going back to work!

11:18: The chocolate's not cutting it. I'm going in for ice cream! (By the way: I'm still on Chapter One. See why I need ice cream?)

11:57: I am fully recharged an ready to re-enter the fray! To prove to you how serious I am, I've got "Defying Gravity" playing on repeat. That's right. I mean bizness.

12:10: Heckyeah. The ice cream worked.

12:21: Woot! Woot! Finished chapter 1!!! OK, so I highlighted two spots to go back to, but still--mostly done chapter 1!

12:36: See that wall? That one, right there? I HIT IT.

1:02: Thank God for

1:13: Oh, hello Chapter 4. *bats eyelashes*

1:24:  Hey, Chapter 4. Remember all those nice things I said about you? I TAKE IT ALL BACK I HATE YOU AND YOU'RE MEAN AND YOUR MOTHER SMELLS OF ELDERBERRIES.


2:13: Fine. FINE. Chapter 4, you win. FOR NOW.

2:14: Bed.

Pay it Forward: Author Interview with Shelli Johannes-Wells

Edited to add: sorry this posted a bit late--I thought I scheduled it, but I guess not!
Everyone has a different path to publication. This week, I'm featuring authors on the way: authors who have found their agents or their publishers and are in the homestretch towards reaching their dreams. Their stories are each different--but they are all inspiring. By showing you how THEY did it, I hope you remember that YOU can, too!
This week has been great! Today, for the last interview, I'm featuring Shelli Johannes-Wells,
an author I'm sure you all know from her super-popular Market My Words blog. Shelli's represented by Alyssa Eisner Henkin of Trident Media Group. In addition to writing for teens and tweens, Shelli is also a pro at marketing.

Tell us about your book.
Tween Paranormal – On the Bright Side

After dying in a car accident and witnessing her own funeral, Gabby becomes a 14 year old Bright-in-Training (BIT) and Transfers up to Cirrus, where SkyFones, SkyPods, and InnerNets are all the rage. As if her death isn’t bad enough, Gabby is assigned to protect her school rival, Angela Black, who is now dating her lifetime crush, Michael.

As Gabby moves through her Bright Training, she is tortured by leaving her family behind and the possibility of losing her first love forever. Instead of protecting Angela as pledged, Gabby goes on probation for illegally sabotaging her. In a desperate attempt to interfere, Gabby triggers a series of “death-changing” events and learns what happens when you hate someone to death.

Can you tell us a little bit about your road to publication?
I wrote and tried to sell a fairy book in 2005. It went to acquisitions twice but did not make it. I shelved that book and started an ecoYA. Last fall I went on submission. A few agents sent back longer rejection letters with feedback that was similar. Basically, I had to change the entire plot. I spent 5 months doing that and requeried those 3 agents asking if I could resubmit. In addition, I told them about my Tween angel book I was working on. 2 months later I had several offers for representation. Alyssa was one of the 3 that had allowed me to resubmit my manuscript after the rewrite. We are currently subbing .

Here is a more in depth look at my journey to getting an agent.

Was there ever a time you felt like giving up? Why didn't you?
Everyday. I don’t because I love to write. It’s that simple.

Thank you, Shelli! You can find Shelli online at her blog or website.

This week of interviews is being hosted by Elana Johnson, and several other bloggers are jumping on the bandwagon, including:
 Be sure to check them all out for inspiring, first-hand stories of authors on the verge of publication!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Pay it Forward: Author Interview with Terry Lynn Johnson

Everyone has a different path to publication. This week, I'm featuring authors on the way: authors who have found their agents or their publishers and are in the homestretch towards reaching their dreams. Their stories are each different--but they are all inspiring. By showing you how THEY did it, I hope you remember that YOU can, too!

So, stick around all week to find out about lots of up-and-coming authors! Today, I'm featuring Terry Lynn Johnson, author of DOGSLED DREAMS, coming next year by 4RV Publishing. Her blog features cool stuff about writing and dogsledding!
 Tell us about your book.
 Dogsled Dreams is being released by 4RV Publishing LLC  January, 2011.
12-year-old Rebecca dreams of becoming a famous sled dog racer. But dangerous beavers, flying poo missiles, freezing blizzards and her own self-doubts all stand in her way.

Read more about it at my website or my blog

 Can you tell us a little bit about your road to publication?
 I took an on-line writing course in 2008 to help me write a memoir of my outdoor adventures. My tutor talked me into writing a story about dogsledding instead. It ended up becoming a full length middle-grade manuscript.
I sent it out to a few Canadian publishers. I was asked by several houses for the full manuscript, so that was encouraging. When that failed, I did a complete rewrite and pitched it to Vivian of 4RV Publishing at the Muse online writers conference last fall. She immediately asked for the full, and then sent a contract!
After I returned from the hospital with a fractured head from the the ill-advised chair-dance of victory, I signed the contract. I'm currently working with my fabulous editor on final revisions. 

Was there ever a time you felt like giving up? Why didn't you? 
Almost every non-writer that's heard about my book coming out exclaims, "You wrote a book?"

"Um, yeah, that was the easy part."

The only time I felt like I'd rather stick pins in my eyes than go through revisions again, was a low point in the process. My editor had suggested some things I was a) unsure I should do, and b) unsure I could do. 

On one hand, it's totally awesome to work with an editor, have the rough spots pointed out to you exactly so you can learn where your strengths and weaknesses are. But I've also had moments of self-doubt.

A quick example of this would be, "Terry, I think this part here needs to be funnier."

"What? How do I do that? Do you think I'm brilliantly witty or something? This is TOO HARD!"  Then something clever wakes me up in the night and I sneak downstairs to write, chuckling at my luck in getting a pushy editor.

I didn't give up because my writing just gets better the more I learn. Unlike going to the gym when I see the improvements, but then somehow figure I don't need to go anymore. Writing is much more fun so it's easier not to quit.

Thank you, Terry! You can find Terry online at her blog or website.

This week of interviews is being hosted by Elana Johnson, and several other bloggers are jumping on the bandwagon, including:
 Be sure to check them all out for inspiring, first-hand stories of authors on the verge of publication!