Friday, July 30, 2010

Of Glitter & Nudity

Now if THAT blog post title doesn't get you to read this post, I just don't know what I'm doing. ;)

First things first: You HAVE TO watch this video. I mean, you could just not, but everything I'm talking about today relates to it, AND it has a great song on it, AND Pink is mostly naked for over half of it. (You can also read the lyrics here.)

Originally, I was just going to post this song as a Music Monday selection, and leave it at that. There's not an official music video of the song, though, but there is this live version of Pink singing at the Grammy's.

And while I was watching, I was...shocked. Surprised. At first because Pink basically took off her dress and sang on national TV wearing nothing but some ribbon and some glitter. Then she got on that swing thing, and I thought "cool." And she kept pushing it and pushing it to the next level. After just being on the swing, she started spinning faster--then dunked herself in water and spun out from the pool--then she slipped the swing off and up, and hung upside down with nothing keeping her in the air except for luck (as far as I could see).

The song's beautiful. She could have worn a pretty dress and sat on top a piano and sung, and everyone would have stood up and clapped.

But she pushed it. She literally got naked in front of the world and did something that--if it failed--would have failed EPICALLY.

But it didn't fail. It became something beautiful and elegant and breathtaking because she risked it all.

In a way, there were two levels of danger to Pink's performance. First, the internal danger to one's self by exposure--by getting (mostly) naked, Pink opened herself up to criticism. Writers do that with their art, too--just by sharing our work with others, we're opening ourselves up to criticism that has the potential to do us harm. There is danger in revealing our work to others.

But there was external, physical danger involved in Pink's performance. No safety nets. One swath of cloth to hold her over the heads of all her peers. One slip--and I'm sure it was a bit slippery, given how it was wet--and she could come tumbling down. This reminded me of writers in the process of publication--be it querying agents or debuting a novel or writing their tenth book for pub.

Maybe I'm just reading too much into this song. Still, don't these lines remind you of writing and waiting to be published?
Have you ever hated yourself for staring at the phone?
You're whole life waiting on the ring to prove you're not alone
And, I'll be honest--lately I've been feeling a lot like this:
Have you ever held your breath and asked yourself will it ever get better than tonight?

But I think the most important thing to take away from this song is simply this:
Have you ever looked fear in the face and said, "I just don't care"?

...and can I have a round of applause for turning a post about glitter and nudity into a writing lesson? ;)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bookanista Feature: Kiersten White's PARANORMALCY

The Bookanistas are a group of writers - in various stages of the publishing process – who have decided to band together and review the special books of our peers.  No negative reviews here! We post every Thursday and cover various topics– upcoming ARCs, books we love, special diamonds in the rough, classics, and even cover reviews.

Here is a list of the Bookanistas: Christina Fonseca, Jamie Harrington, Michelle Hodkin, Kirsten Hubbard, Shelli Johannes-Wells, Myra McEntire, Shannon Messenger, Bethany Wiggins and Suzette Saxton, Beth Revis, Lisa and Laura Roecker, Sarah Frances Hardy and Katie Anderson, Scott Tracey, and Carolina Miller

PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White

I'm not going to talk too much about PARANORMALCY right now because plans: I have them. But here are some facts you should know:
  • I read the book in a day and a half
  • I was PISSED OFF like a two year old at bed time when I fell asleep before the end
  • There is a TWILIGHT joke in there that made me laugh out loud literally
  • I cried. Twice.
  • You know how I hate lots of YA with romance because I think a lot of YA with romance does it wrong? PARANORMALCY does it right. (Read: the crazy psychotic abusive obsessive hot guy is crazy psychotic abusive and obsessive, NOT the love interest...)
  • There's not a shiney bow at the end of the story, although things end up better than I thought they might.
  • Evie almost makes me like pink. And that's saying A LOT.

Look, just do yourself a favor and go ahead and pre-order PARANORMALCY. It'll come to you before the end of August, and it will make you very very very happy.


Other Bookanista Features Today:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Today's Lesson is Brought to You by Hindsight

Whenever at all possible, you should do these things when writing a character:
  • Make him/her as smart as possible
  • Make him/her as active as possible
If your character is dumb because you need her to not figure out something until a later chapter, you're not writing it right. If your character is motionless because you can't figure out something for her to do when she's not "on stage" in your story, you're not writing it right.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go from Chapter 20 back to Chapter 2 and rewrite an entire character.

The World Series of Books Champion Is...

I reallllllly wish I had an announcer voice. I'd get on a mic and do a play-by-play of this week's series! I've gotta say--it was a CLOSE game! There for a while, I think each of our teams pulled ahead. I was convinced one team would win...then another team...then another.

Almost 40 people voted, and the playoffs for the championship were between Storybook Queen and Misty Waters! But in the end, there can only be one winner--and while this winner won by a strike (I mean, by one vote), she's still the winner. So...


You rights for being the top team in the World Series of Books! Everyone, drop by her blog and tell her congratulations!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Fantasy Book Teams World Series--YOU VOTE on the Winner!

You guys rawk! Thanks for contributing your teams for the World Series of Books! :) This has seriously been so much fun; we may have to do this again... *plots & schemes*

OK, without further ado, meet the teams!

Storyqueen's Team
Hero-Max (from Where the Wild Things Are)

Love Interest- Eloise (from Eloise)

Arch-Nemesis- Sam-I-Am (From Green Eggs and Ham)

Setting-Paris (from Madeline)

Plot-(From How the Grinch Stole Christmas) Max and Eloise are plotting to steal the Eiffel Tower because THEY HATE IT and want to destroy it once and for all. It is a symbol of France....and people eat escargot in France...WHICH THEY HATE. Or maybe they just thing they do....Enter Sam-I-Am and his pail of Green Eggs and Snail.......


Alan Gratz's Team
Heroine: Pippi Longstocking - irreverent, individual, AND super-strong!

Hero: Kid Flash (Teen Titans) - super fast and easy-going. Love his humor.

Sidekick: Chewbacca (Star Wars trilogy) - Rrrrrraaaaawwr!

Villain: Mrs. Coulter (His Dark Materials trilogy) - Not always villainous, but always cold, calculating, and in control.

Setting: The Traction City of London (Hungry City Chronicles) - Honestly, has anybody EVER invented a better setting than a London on treads that goes about the "Great Hunting Ground" of Europe eating smaller traction cities through "Municipal Darwinianism"? No. No, they haven't.

Plot: Raiders of the Lost Ark - I'll go back to the movies for my favorite movie of all time, and put Kid Flash and Pippi Longstocking (along with their trusty sidekick Chewbacca) competing with Mrs. Coulter for clues to the Lost Ark of the Covenant on the moving traction city of London in a post-apocalyptic steampunk world.


Misty Water's Team
Heroine and Hero: Rose & Dimitri from the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead. Anyone who's read this series knows EXACTLY why I chose these two.  They kick major ASS, and are just waaaay too cool for words.  And they're hot.

Sidekick: Quinn the Weretiger from the Southern Vampire Mysteries (the Sookie Stackhouse series) by Charlaine Harris. What can I say about Quinn?  Well, he makes everyone question their next step. He's a big, tall, badass dude. And he's hot. And he can turn into a tiger.  Hello?  What more do you need?
Villain: Neferet from the House of Night Series by PC & Kristen Cast. Neferet is a conniving, lowdown, ruthless bitch who'll do anything to get what she wants. And, yes, unfortunately she's hot, too.  NOT my fault.

Setting: The Hall of Mirrors from The Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning. I LOVE the Hall of Mirrors in the Fever Series.  You don't actually get there until book 4 of the series (Dreamfever), but once you're in, you're in.  You very well may be totally screwed.  You can stay in the Hall and forget who you are, or you can jump in a mirror and cross your fingers you don't end up in a desert-like place with 5 suns.  Or a world with multiple deadly creatures (hence the need for my sidekick).

Plot: retrieve the antidote from the Immortals Series by Alyson Noel. The plot I've chosen made me incredibly sad when it happened in the 2nd book of this series.  Now, even after 4 books, the MC's are still trying to get the antidote.  For what, you ask?  Ever and Damon cannot touch each other.  If they do, Damon dies.  *tear escapes* Kills me.  I hate it.


John Claude Bemis's Team
Heroine: Hester Shaw (Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines) – Ferocious, hard to love, and endlessly fascinating.

Hero: Jack (folk character from the Appalachian Jack Tales) – A trickster as captivating as the Norse god Loki. He’s hilarious, overly confident, and always has an ingenious way out of any jam.

Sidekick: the Tin Woodman (Baum's Wonderful Wizard of Oz) – A steampunk, axe-wielding ballast to Jack and Hester’s conflicting personalities.

Villain: The Cat in the Hat, along with Thing One and Thing Two (yes, Dr. Seuss’s)– Since I’ve returned to this bedtime classic as a parent, I’ve realized how sinister these characters are. The Cat uses his chipper personality to lure others in before unleashing his own brand of malice. And when he brings out the red box and lets out the Things saying “They will not bite you” and “They are tame. Oh, so tame!” I get chills. Are they human or beast? Whatever they are, they scare me.

Setting: The living prison of Catherine Fisher's Incarceron. A great setting is ripe with conflict and this prison world of metal forests, dog-slaves, and half-men provides plenty. But when the setting itself is alive, god-like, and cruel, it pushes conflict to a whole other level.

Plot: Hunger Games. Jack, Hester, and the Tin Woodman form a temporary alliance as they battle it out against the dapper Cat, his monstrous Things, and their sinister Seussian machines in a world that is out to get them all. I have no idea how it will end, but I don’t see Jack and Hester pulling the same love-truce as Katniss and Peeta.


Little Scribbler's Team
Hero: Jack West Jr., from Matthew Reilly’s The Seven Ancient Wonders
Heroine: Lara Croft (yes, I know she’s a video game character, but this is my blog, so shush)
Sidekick: Eddie Chase, from Andy McDermott’s novels.
Villain: Lord Voldemort, from JK Rowling’s Harry Potter
Setting: Alegaesia, from Christopher Paolini’s world of Eragon
Plot: Lord of the Rings, by JRR Tolkien

Lara Croft’s dead father has left her a powerful ring in his will, one that Voldemort wants to  use to increase his power. The will warns Lara to destroy the Ring to avoid this happening. To destroy it, Lara must drop it into Mount Doom, on the far side of Alegaesia.

Lara sets off with her two friends, Jack West Jr and Eddie Chase. They pass through the Beor Mountains, where they are attacked by Urgals and Death Eaters. Jack West Jr falls from a cliff, and appears to die. Lara and Eddie continue on alone, using Dobby the House Elf to guide them to Voldemort’s lair at Mount Doom.

However, the trio learn that Jack Wes Jr is in fact alive, having used his Maghook. He slowly climbs out, and uses a Dragon to catch up to the others. From there, Dobby leads them all to Mount Doom, where, after a massive show down with Urgals, Death Eaters, and Voldemort himself, Lara destroys the ring. A giant dragon returns the trio home to Croft Manor.


Man, you guys! You put together a GREAT set of teams! I am thoroughly entirely impressed!
All I can say is...PLAY BALL!!!

If this was the World Series of Books, which of the above teams would win?
(You have until Wednesday at 12:01AM to vote, so click away!)

Which Team Wins the World Series of Books?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fantasy Book Team

You've all heard of fantasy baseball, right? That's where you pick your favorite players for positions across all the teams, group them together, watch their stats during the Season and see if your fantasy team would have beat out other people's fantasy teams.

Well, baseball stats involve numbers, and we all know I can barely add. So I'm out for fantasy baseball. But after seeing Alan Gratz's new cover for his book Fantasy Baseball, (<--click for the fun blurb!) I started thinking: what would be the very best group of characters, situations, and setting to make for the best book in the world? If I could pull any character from any book and put them in any world with any situation, which characters/worlds/situations would I pick?

And my Fantasy Book Team was born.

Beth's Fantasy Book Team

Simple. When I think about my favorite characters, I think of characters who were both strong in character and wits, not necessarily strong in brute force or power. So I don't want the character who's the best because it's his chosen destiny, or the one who won the battle by force. I want the characters who had to learn and struggle and outsmart. So my heroine and hero were simple choices: Aerin, who had to learn on her own how to fight dragons, then find the strength within herself to actually do it; and Gen who is one of the smartest characters, well, ever.

But these two characters are pretty serious, grave characters--I want a sidekick who can lighten the mood. Therefore, prankster Fred Weasley (obviously the better twin) gets the role. Can you imagine the three of them on a quest? Aerin would be trying to learn everything she could, Gen would be mulling in his mind how he'd out-clever them all, and Fred would light something on fire. Awesome.

With this team, I need a really good villain. Now, I personally want a villain who has motive. I don't want an anonymous baddie who's just bad to be bad. Darth Vader and Voldemort are, therefore, out. I want a villain who believes absolutely that he is doing the right thing--and who better for that than The Operative in the movie Serenity? He is willing to brutally kill, track down Mal and his crew, and slaughter innocents in the name of the Government--because he believes absolutely and entirely that the Government is right. Also--he's way smart, so Gen and Aerin will have a time with him.

Now for setting. I came very close to picking the world of Patricia Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles, but that was a little too slap-stick for this crew. I wanted a world that had a little bit of fun, but also a little bit of serious--so I ended up with the islands featured in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. This gives the characters a chance to sail around and explore new worlds, face dangers in the environment as well as their villain, and have brief moments of comedy. Can you image Fred Weasley meeting the Dufflepuds?

Finally, plot. Conflict. I definitely didn't want a romance-centered plot, so works like Twilight were out. And this is way to fantastic to be restrained by a contemporary conflict, so that was out. I didn't want to go as harsh as The Hunger Games--I wanted a quest. And the ultimate quest? As much as it pains me to admit: Lord of the Rings. Now, I'm not a Tolkien fan--but for me, Tolkien failed in characters and setting (as in: too much of both), not plot. So if I take the classic quest story in Lord of the Rings and add these characters--I think I just hit gold.

This is based on fantasy baseball, right? So here's the wind-up pitch:

The Operative believes absolutely that the dragon Maur needs to own the One Ring and gain absolute power in his rule of the Narnia Islands. Unfortunately for him, Aerin and Gen disagree--and they've got the Ring. They're tired of the dragon's complete control, and know that if he owns the Ring, he'll become a even greater tyrant. They enlist the aid of Narnian pirate Fred Weasley to sail them through the Narnian Islands, fighting both the dangers of the world and The Operative along the way, until the final battle to see if Aerin and Gen can destroy the Ring...or fall to it.

AWESOME, right?! I think so. I wish someone would write this book! Talk about the ultimate fan fic...

Now I want you to share your Fantasy Book Team.  
What characters would you use, in what world, against what villain, with what main conflict?  
Add you team to the comments--or write up your own Fantasy Book Team on your blog and give me a link. I'll feature the best ones on the blog!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bookanista Feature: Brenna Yovanoff's THE REPLACEMENT

The Bookanistas are a group of writers - in various stages of the publishing process – who have decided to band together and review the special books of our peers.  No negative reviews here! We post every Thursday and cover various topics– upcoming ARCs, books we love, special diamonds in the rough, classics, and even cover reviews.

Here is a list of the Bookanistas: Christina Fonseca, Jamie Harrington, Michelle Hodkin, Kirsten Hubbard, Shelli Johannes-Wells, Myra McEntire, Shannon Messenger, Bethany Wiggins and Suzette Saxton, Beth Revis, Lisa and Laura Roecker, Sarah Frances Hardy and Katie Anderson, Scott Tracey, and Carolina Miller

THE REPLACEMENT by Brenna Yovanoff

THE REPLACEMENT has the most jaw-dropping cover I've ever seen. You guys just wait till you see it in real life--it's shiney and sparkly and totally, totally creepy.

Which matches the text inside. THE REPLACEMENT is beautifully written, with elegant prose akin to Carrie Ryan's THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH. I think the best word to describe how it is written is poignant.

But the story is dark and eerie. It's about a boy who was a replacement--a changling who took the place of a baby. His parents and sister know, but it's the topic No One Talks About (which drives Mackie crazy). But fae aren't meant to live in the real world--Mackie's always been sick, and is very lucky to have lasted as long as he has. As the fae draw him closer to their world, Mackie must decide whether to join them (and their twisted way of living) or stay in the world that reviles his kind, a world to which he'll never truly belong.

My favorite part? The sister. I love her--especially since she has a direct link to the image on the cover. So clever. Her choices, and her way of explaining them to Mackie and their mother, is just so...knife-in-heart beautiful.

This is a scary book, but a beautiful one. Brenna's done for horror what Carrie did for zombies. Totally worth a read.


Other Bookanista Features Today:

17032 / 80000

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Live-Writing: A Day in the Life of a Full-Time Writer

So I looked up and realized that it was Wednesday. Well, crap. Where did the week go? I had such big plans--namely nailing down about ten chapters--and I've not done any of them.

I have a list of excuses, some of them valid. See, I'm just starting this full-time writer gig, and I've not quite gotten down a pattern yet. I actually have the next ten-ish chapters planned out, and I tend to not be excited about writing when I know what happens next. I prefer every writing day to be an ADVENTURE into the murky UNKNOWN. And I've been doing lots of writerly things--critiques, web design, calling contacts, working on something awesome for a friend (makes eyes at Heather), working with agent and editor (I squee a bit every time I even think that), etc. And some of the stuff I'm working on is going to be AWESOME for YOU--I can't wait to unveil some of the stuff we're planning and doing for ACROSS THE UNIVERSE. There is candy involved.

But the long and short of it is simply that I've not gotten nearly enough writing done lately. Today's goal: actual writing. Like, significant writing that really puts a dent in the WIP (which, yes, is Book 2).

And I'll live-blog it.

Credit where credit is due: I thought of doing this in part because Maureen Johnson, who's a rock star of words, tweeted this:

Party, did you say? I'M ALL IN.

Throughout the day, I'll be updating this post with what's going on with my writing. Come back later to see what happened next.

8:40--Wake up. Sort of. I'm not a morning person. 

9:00--Breakfast. Massive bowl of Captain Crunch. 

9:40--Look at the clock after watching THE DISH during breakfast. Holy crap. I've wasted an hour already.

10:00--Play with the dog, get dressed in real clothes, PREPARE FOR LIVE-BLOG.

10:15--Open up Scrivener. It's blinking at me, telling me to WORK. *buckles down*

10:29-- Oh, excuse me. That buckle wasn't fastened correctly. *really buckles down*

10:30--WHAT am I THINKING? I can't mean bizness without COFFEE. I'm going in.

10:39--Got coffee. Got notebook of notes in front of me. Wait, I need to feed the fish. OK, officially out of excuses. 

10:45--Word count: 14,252. Just started chapter 16.

10:55--Just wrote a chapter. Just deleted it.

11:01--You know what's a cool word? Trifecta. I wish I had a reason to use that word. Oh, wait. I'm writing a book. Riiiiiight.

11:09--I've added about 300 words (that I haven't deleted). This chapter is like pulling teeth, though. That's what I get for writing a chapter about climbing up stairs. Argh.

11:15--Hopped online for a bit of procrastination. Discovered this. OMFG YES!!!!!! That is flipping awesome--another Avatar cartoon series!!! YAY!

11:16--Must. Work. iTunes is now playing Beatles. That is a sure sign that I. Must. Work.

11:25--I am worried that none of this chapter will make the final cut of the book. It is a chapter about climbing stairs, after all. *sigh* Still, I can't work with nothing, and she does need to get up the stairs. *returns to writing*

11:49--Word count: 15,267. Finished Chapter 16. Done with the blasted stairs. But I SOOOOOO don't want to write the next chapter. Main characters are about to get in a HUGE fight, and I HATE fight scenes. Maybe now's a good time for lunch....

12:51--How did lunch take a whole hour? Oh, yeah, cause I watched two episodes of THE WIZARDS OF WAVERLY PLACE while eating potato-broccoli soup. Now my belly's full and my mind is full of Selana Gomez snark. That might be a good place to get the fight scene ready... 

12:54--I decided you needed a picture of Selena Gomez. I AM ALWAYS THINKING OF YOU. No, wait. I'm just thinking of me here. And procrastinating. *mumblegrumble* FINE. I'll start writing again.

12:56--Doesn't it look like Selena's all glaring at my procrastination?

1:04--STOP JUDGING ME SELENA GOMEZ. I just downloaded your single on iTunes. HAPPY NOW?

1:13--Oh, right. Manuscript. I should see to that.

1:23--I have no idea how to start this chapter.


1:38--FINE. That'll do.

1:44--OMG my main characters are so CUTE together! ...I don't wanna make them fight...

1:52--I watched some Sassy Gay Friend to make me feel better about turning my MCs on each other.

OK, then I got distracted by this:

1:59--FINE. I'll go make the adorably cute characters have a HORRIBLE FIGHT now.

2:06--I don't wanna make 'em fight. :(   (I also had a hard time reading Harry Potter 4, when Harry and Ron fight. I hate fighting friends.)

2:19--They're fighting now. ARE YOU HAPPY YET?

2:20--I so just used the word "vitriol." I love that word.

2:27--Should I make them kiss? A kiss after a mini-make-up and just before the worst part of the fight...

2:36--It became an almost-kiss. And it's sad. :( Why do you keep making me sad, book? I should write about candy and puppies.

2:39--I will cheer myself up with more coffee.

2:57--Current word count: 16,637.

3:14--MC Girl just burned MC Boy. But I want them to snog! Stupid characters, never doing what I want them to. *mumblegrumble*

3:55--A little stuck. Next chapter starts: "The next day..." That should unstick me.

4:01--Nope. Still stuck. But actually...this is a good place to stop.

Tally of today's productivity:
  • Number of Sassy Gay Friend videos watched: 3
  • Number of times I listened to "Round and Round": 59-ish
  • Final word count: 17,032
  • Number of chapters written: 4 (I write really short chapters, btw)
  • Words written today: 2,780

Hmmm...not terrible, but I know I can do better. But the good news is I've gotten past the plotted fight scene, and I'm back into the murky unknown depths of the plot. And this has certainly given me a bit of a kickstart. I'm still struggling to find the balance between writing, other authorly stuff that needs to be done (I've got 41 unread emails currently), and procrastinating. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

From this side of the fence

So I was reading BookEnds post on what NOT to put in a query letter. My first thought in reading these was "Well, duh. Obviously you shouldn't do that stuff."

Then my second thought was, "Wait. Wait. I almost did do some of that stuff. What was I thinking?!"

And I remembered then, what it was like to write a query letter cold. I had no--absolutely zero--things going for me in the query department. I had no great recommendations, referrals, conference connections or other "ins" that would make me stand out in the slush pile. I had a ridiculously non-existent bio section of the letter. My only writing credit was...this blog. That's it. No publications, no contest wins.


And even though I wished I had something to fluff out my query, all I had was a pitch paragraph, a paragraph with the nitty-gritty info (word count, genre) and two sentences of bio--one pointing to my blog, and the other thanking the agent for her time.

At the time, I thought it would never work. I was tempted to do all that crap that all those blogs tell us not to do, just so I had something else in my query letter.

But I didn't. I reigned in my frothy-mouth crazy-writer instincts, and wrote the simplest, shortest, clearest letter I could. And I prayed. A lot.

And it worked. (I mean, not at first. I got rejected at first. A lot. But that was because my book sucked, not because of my query letter.) Guys--I realized in reading the BookEnds list that the reason why we writers do all that stupid stuff is because we're looking for something--anything--to give us an edge and help us get these manuscripts we love published. We're not crazy on purpose. Mostly, we're just desperate and frustrated. At least I was.

And it's only now that I'm on the other side of the fence that I realize the best, the very very very best thing we can do is trust the system, write the best pitch we can, and realize that's enough.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bookanista Feature: Julia Karr's XVI

The Bookanistas are a group of writers - in various stages of the publishing process – who have decided to band together and review the special books of our peers. We – as fellow writers – have decided to only post positive reviews, therefore, only reviewing the book we LOVE. No negative reviews here! We post every Thursday and cover various topics– upcoming ARCs, books we love, special diamonds in the rough, classics, and even cover reviews.

This fashionable badge represents our group (club/gang/posse/secret society/peeps). Here is a list of the Bookanistas: Christina Fonseca, Jamie Harrington, Michelle Hodkin, Kirsten Hubbard, Shelli Johannes-Wells, Myra McEntire, Shannon Messenger, Bethany Wiggins and Suzette Saxton, Beth Revis, Lisa and Laura Roecker, Sarah Frances Hardy and Katie Anderson, Scott Tracey, and Carolina Miller

XVI by Julia Karr

Today on the Bookanistas, I'm spreading some cover love. Julia Karr is my fellow writer at The League of Extraordinary Writers, and will debut this beauty next year in January. Her book takes place in a near-future world where "sixteen years old" may as well be your "sex-teenth" birthday. But the book's not just about love and sex--there's murder, secrets, and an ex-government agent, too!

When I first heard about the title for XVI (on her agent's blog), after thinking "Whoa! Cool premise!" I wondered how they'd do the cover. After all, the title's just three letters long--how can you make that stand out?

Well, the people at Puffin/Speak sure know their business. I love how the title literally IS the cover, and how the girl's face is broken up not only by the lines around the title, but also by her dark hair. Even though her face is a little blurry (making the title pop more), her eyes draw me right in.

So, what do you think? Cool cover, right?


Other Bookanista Features Today:

13358 ★ 85000

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Do you know what happens in 252 days, 17 hours, 55 minutes, and 7 seconds? I DO!!!

Operation Joy 2 the World: Ghana, Love, and Prizes

Candy of The Misadventures in Candyland is well known for being super cool and having great taste in music. She's combined those two attribute for something very important: supporting New Medicine bassist Matt Brady in his Joy 2 the World mission to provide microloans to needy women in Ghana.

I'm all in favor of the microloan charity, a popular feature in my favorite charity, World Vision. Basically, what a microloan does is provide a needy woman with the funds she requires to held make herself independent. For example, if the woman's a seamstress, the microloan will help her buy a sewing machine so she can then work, pay off the loan, and become an independent business owner. It's the epitome of the old saying, "Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime."

Candy explains Matt Brady's personal mission on her blog, and also adds:
To read the story of his month-long, life-changing journey, go HERE. To read more about Joy 2 The World and who/why you're help is needed, go HERE. If you're still not sure, read more about founder, Kathleen Gibbs HERE.

Of course, I wanted to help Candy out in her goal to raise money for the microloan project! Who wouldn't? Fortunately, Candy has come up with several ways to help: GIVE a donation, BUY a t-shirt, CREATE graphics to spread the word, or LISTEN to the New World music (each download of which supports the project).

And the best part? Do any of these things, tell Candy, and you could win AWESOME prizes:

  • 30 minute phone call with superagent Michelle Wolfson
  • 3 chapter tandem critique by authors Tawna Fenske & Cynthia Reese
  • "Lost Dog," "Chasing Smoke" and "Day One" autographed book set donated by author Bill Cameron
  • A copy of "NUMB" and a 50 page critique by author Sean Ferrell
  • A copy edit of your ms by supereditor Gretchen Stelter
  • "We Hear the Dead" tee and ms critique by author Dianne Salerni
  • Query letter + 3 chapter critique + special pre-order of "Across the Universe" by author Beth Revis
  • One of (4) signed prints, (1) signed original, and (2) query critiques donated by author Rose Cooper
  • 10 Page critique + one of (3) $25 Amazon Gift Cards donated by author T.H. Mafi
  • Query critique by author Matthew Rush
  • ARC of "Dead Beautiful" by Yvonne Woon donated by Candyland
The contest will run today through July 31st and winners will be announced on Monday, August 2nd.

Why, yes--that IS a prize up there by yours truly--a query letter and 3 chapter critique, plus the VERY FIRST preorder of my book, coming out next year!!

I think we can all agree that this contest is awesome, but what the money's going for--to help needy Ghana women help themselves--is even more important. And what we need now, beyond donations and aid for these women--is to get the word out.

So I'm going to match Candy's contest! If you post about Candy's contest and/or about the mission to provide microloans to Ghana women, post a link in the comments below, and when Candy's contest ends, I'll draw a name...and the winner will receive a $15 Amazon gift card!

That's all you have to do--tell someone else about this amazing mission. Spread the word, spread the love, and win prizes!

Monday, July 12, 2010

You can't make this stuff up.

You just CAN'T.

Y'all, these are my PEOPLE. I mean, not that I'm related to them--just that this happened a few miles up the road.  Welcome to my home. Where the toothless rednecks spot bigfoot, draw a picture of him, and name him Knobby.

Y'all, this got on CNN. It's all anyone can talk about.

I love my home!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Congrats and Celebrations!

Yanno, when I woke up this morning, I thought "I don't really have anything to blog about, I think I'll just take a day off."

Then I found an awesome contest, an awesome poster....and now I just heard some more awesome news. So I'll just spam you guys with three posts instead of none!

ANYWAY: Recently my good friend Jodi Meadows announced that she got a three book deal with Katherine Teagan Books, starting with the wonderfully amazing ERIN INCARNATE. Hurrah! ERIN INCARNATE is wonderful AND has butterflies as a theme, which makes it brilliant. And she's holding a contest to celebrate--you could win crits from Jodi, which are GOLD.

And I just found out that Anna Staniszewski (who guest blogged for me, so I totally get to tell people that I knew her way back when) sold her funny MG novel UN-FAIRYTALE LIFE to Jabberwocky and will debut in 2011! AND she is holding a contest to celebrate-free books ftw!

I don't know about you...

....but I am SO buying this as soon as it's released! I wonder how mad the husband would be if I hung it up in my office (that is also our bedroom)?


Because I want to win. HARDCORE.

I want to win so much that if YOU win instead of ME, I will track you down and beat you up and take your prizes.

OK, I might not do that.


What's so cool that I'm contemplated assault and robbery? Oh, just a copy of Stephanie Perkin's ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS and Kiersten White's PARANORMALCY.

I'm going to go sit in my envy corner now.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bookanista Feature: Robin McKinley's PEGASUS

Today is the first launch day of the new book review bloggers - The Bookanistas: Books are the New Black. We are a group of writers - in various stages of the publishing process – who have decided to band together and review the special books of our peers. We – as fellow writers – have decided to only post positive reviews, therefore, only reviewing the book we LOVE. No negative reviews here!

The Bookanistas give nothing but love!

Starting today, we will post reviews every Thursday that cover various topics– upcoming ARCs, books we love, special diamonds in the rough, classics, and even cover reviews. This fashionable badge represents our group (club/gang/posse/secret society/peeps). Here is a list of the Bookanistas: Christina Fonseca, Jamie Harrington, Michelle Hodkin, Kirsten Hubbard, Shelli Johannes-Wells, Myra McEntire, Shannon Messenger, Bethany Wiggins and Suzette Saxton, Beth Revis, Lisa and Laura Roecker, Sarah Frances Hardy and Katie Anderson, Scott Tracey, and Carolina Miller!

PEGASUS by Robin McKinley

I got this ARC from a very dear friend of mine, and have not been able to put it down (until, erm, oceans separated me from it. I did no reading in Europe, shame on me!).

If you need a reason to pick this one up, I refer you to the prettyprettyamazinglypretty cover above. I THAT is one beautiful cover!

And what's even better? The words inside are more beautiful.

Well, of course they are. Robin McKinley wrote them.

But if I had to pick one thing I love more about this book than anything else, it would be simply this: Robin McKinley makes me believe that pegasi could be real. She does an amazing job of creating realistic mythical characters with their own mythology, beliefs, history, and personalities that make me think they are truly real. This is not a story where a girl rides a pretty winged horse--no, pegasi in this story are not at all just winged horses, and they have their own truly unique tale to tell.


Other Bookanista Features Today:

The Bookanistas think books are the best accessory. If you would like one of us to review your book or ARC, feel free to contact me and we will add it to our list. 

11400 ★ 85000

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I think I finally get it...

I watched a movie yesterday.

It wasn't that good.

But while I was watching it, I came up with a simple answer to a long-standing writing question: what is Voice, and why is it so important? So I guess the $6 matinee ticket was worth it.

Here's the wisdom I came up with:

1. There are two parts to any good book: a) the story and b) the writing.

2. The story = setting, plot, characters.

3. The writing = how you present the setting, plot, characters.

In other words, the writing, the way in which you present the story, is the Voice.

In the movie I was watching, the story had everything. A detailed, beautifully done setting that was realistic and interesting. A strong plot that hinged on character development. Characters with clear, obvious motivations and universal appeal.

...but I was bored out of my mind.

It wasn't, to my surprise, the story. I liked the story.

It was how the story was being told. We knew two characters were in love, for example, because the narrator said they were. We didn't see the passion, or fall in love with the girl as the boy did. Nope--the narrator just said they were in love and then boom! The audience is supposed to believe it's Romeo and Juliet all over again.

It also existed in the dialog. I often felt that the characters were reading the script, not reacting to the events of the story. There was a lot of "As you know, Bob," going on in the movie, a lot of voice-over narration telling us how to feel about the situation, and dialog that felt like writer's intrusion, not a natural response.

I liked the setting. I liked the plot. I liked the characters. But put them all together, and I didn't like the movie. I didn't like the writing. I didn't like the way the characters spoke, talked, or acted.

I didn't like the Voice.

This was perhaps easier for me to discover in watching a movie than in reading a novel, albeit I think this is more often a problem with books than movies. Think of a book that you should like--one that is right up your alley. When you bought it, you were excited to find such a jewel. You couldn't wait to read this book. It was like the author peered into your brain and wrote something just for you. Maybe it's a dark fairy tale or a vampire love story or old-fashioned murder mystery, but whatever it is, it is just the kind of book you like.

And you hate it.

It's because the story is there...but the writing isn't.

Let's make up a fictional book--a romance set in the Wild West between a saloon owner and a cowgirl.
  • The Story:
    • Setting: Wild West. (We can go on to add specific details--what the ranch is like, what the saloon is like, etc.)
    • Characters: saloon owner and cowgirl (Again, adding more details)
    • Plot: Saloon owner needs cowgirl to invest in his saloon or he loses the bar; along the way they fall in love.
  • The Writing:
    • Setting: Do the characters love or hate their setting? Why? How does the setting effect them--does the cowgirl long for city life and hate to see the horses? Does the saloon owner almost die in the desert?
    • Characters: Go past their physical appearance and their immediate past. What deep-set longings do they have? What do they want with all their heart? Now: never ever tell me what it is they want more than anything. Just show it to me in their reactions. Make the cowgirl grumpy or the saloon owner flirty--but don't tell me they are--show me.
    • Plot: This all comes down to reactions. The plot of the story is like a timeline: this happens, then this happens, then this happens. Who cares? The real plot of your writing is showing me the reactions the characters have based on what has happened.
I think a lot of people just think about the story when they write. They think about what everything looks like, and what happens next. But that's just the story. The writing is where the voice is, and that lies in making each part of the story interact in a realistic, responsive way.

11294 ★ 85000

Monday, July 5, 2010




It is exhausting to chaperon a gaggle of high school students through Europe for nearly two weeks. Exhausting. Like deep in the marrow of my bones exhausting.

But I loved every minute. First, this trip gave me a chance to meet my French editor (hi Xavier!!) who is amazing and just the kind of person I love working with and so enthusiastic and wonderful that I felt like I died and went to heaven when I was in his office surrounded by my favorite books (in French) and knowing my book would be up on those shelves (also in French).

Second, it was a great way to say goodbye to teaching. If you have to quit a job you love, why not do it in Paris?

Third, gelato.

Fourth: art. It's everywhere. I mean, yeah, Mona Lisa in Louvre and David in Florence, but that's not what I'm talking about.

I'm talking about street art.

Secret: I love street art. I love actually watching the art be made in front of me. I think I might love it more than Mona Lisa, which is kinda overrated and most people only like it because it's famous and it always makes me mad when I'm at the Louvre and people are running down the hall just to see this one tiny pic that's behind three-inch bullet-proof glass and I'm all like "WTF? Didn't you notice that Donatello you just sprinted past? Show the other Ninja Turtles some love, y'all!" And usually I'm asked to go because I actually do say that sort of thing out loud and try to tell random nearby strangers about the composition of colors and the symbolism of flowers in the paintings because my friends have probably left me at the museum like three hours ago when I just stared slack-jawed at a painting and forgot there were other people around.

Deep breath.

The point: I like art, and one of the things I like particularly about art is watching it be made. I bought a watercolor in Venice specifically because I saw the guy paint it on the street--I bought it before the paint was even completely dried. And of everything I saw in the entire trip, I think my very favorite thing was watching the glass making demonstration, also in Venice.

I've seen glass blowing before, but this particular glass blower was very skilled. I only caught part of the end on tape, but the best part was the last bit of his demonstration, where he made a glass horse. I am still in awe of how he teased out a beautiful equine shape from a lump of molten sand.

That's what art is to me: creation. Here was nothing but a blob--and he made a beautiful shape, a graceful horse. It's magic, making something new from something old. No--it's better than magic--because it's real and not an illusion.

That's what paper is to me: a chance to create. I think it's the desire of all humans to create something precious, be it a flower in the garden, an accomplished child, or a work of art. We want to have made something from nothing, we want to know that we changed the world, even if it is only in a small way.