Saturday, September 29, 2012

October Events!

Have I mentioned lately that I have the best job in the world? Because I do.

This month, I'm going to be at several different places, all of them AWESOME.

First up? NC School Library Media Association conference! When/where: October 4-6 in Winstom-Salem, NC. More info here!

From NC to NYC--I'm heading up to New York for a full week of crazy adventures! First is a book launch--my very first anthology! Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling edited this anthology of dystopian short stories, and I'm honored to be a part of such an amazing collection. NINE of the authors in the antho are celebrating the book launch at one of my fave indie bookstores, Books of Wonder! When/where: October 11, at 6pm in Books of Wonder, NYC. More info here!

Next--New York Comic Con! NYCC was my very first public event, back in 2010 before any of my books were published. I got to fill in a spot of an author who had to back out at the last minute, and sign my very first ARCs. I still have the picture of the first girl who got the first ARC I signed for the public. It was surreal and awesome at the same time!

So it's extra-special to me to be able to go back to NYCC for the last book of the trilogy. For full details on all that NYCC has to offer, check here. (And PS: I highly advise you to get your tickets in advance!)

NY ComicCon Events:

  • Signing of ARCs of SHADES OF EARTH: At the Penguin Booth, date/time to come
  • GEEK GEEK REVOLUTION: Friday, 3-4pm. With: Amber Benson, Andrea Cremer,  Colleen Lindsay, Myke Cole. More details here. This is a question based game-show where we're all competing for the chance to be TOP GEEK. And there will be prizes for the audience!
  • HOCUS POCUS: MAGIC & MONSTERS IN SCI FI AND FANTASY. Saturday, 1:30-2:30pm, followed by a signing by all participating authors. With: Andrea Cremer, Cecil Castellucci, Jacqueline Carey, Jocelynn Drake, Kim Harrison, Max Gladstone, Richard Kadrey, Victoria Schwab. Guys? Guys? I'm a moderator. I'm MODERATING. EEEP! We're talking all about monsters and the things that go bump in the night. Come!! More details here.
  • Also? My husband and I are basically giant nerds. So if you miss one of the events, we'll be on the floor, sitting at panels, and basically geeking out. Come find us! :)

And coming...SOON...the first Shades of Earth ARC contest on this very blog! Stay tuned! 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Quick Poll for Contests: Pinterest?

Hi all! I'm currently working on a lot of stuff behind the scenes--organizing some new events, writing a new book, designing new swag, and planning out the contests for the rest of the year. And if you all don't mind, I'd love to pick your brains about some upcoming contests.

I've already got something big planned for November and December, but I'm thinking of doing another contest, probably running a week or two before and after SHADES OF EARTH launches. I like to spread out prizes and ways to win those prizes--for November, there's going to be a "do something to win a prize" and for December, there's going to be a "simple entry" prize where people can just sign up to win. But for January, I was thinking of making it a combo of both--you can enter just by clicking a button, but you can also get more entries if you do a little something extra.

Not to belabor the point, but I'm considering using Pinterest as one way to enter the contest I'm planning in January. And while I've seen it used to great effect by other authors (I'm looking at you, Jessica Khoury!) I'm curious to know if the people who read my blog and want to enter my contest are interested in using this platform? As always, I'd have Pinterest as an option--there would always be an alternative way to enter.

Which leads me to the poll. What do you think? Pinterest: yay or nay? And also--please let me know in the comments of some other ways authors are using Pinterest, or ways you wish authors would use Pinterest--I'd love to pick more brains for ideas!

(And if you're already on Pinterest, you can find me here. Book-related, I've got two AtU boards and a story board for the current project I'm working on.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Writing Wednesday: MG vs. YA--Plot

A common question I get is: “what’s the difference between MG (middle grade) and YA (young adult)?”

I guess the simple answer is this:
  • Middle grade: novels written for people in middle grades  with protagonists typically between the ages of 9-14. 
  • Young adult: novels written for teens with protagonists typically in their mid to late teens.
But I actually really dislike this description. To me, the most important thing that makes a MG or YA novel is not the age of the protagonist, but the style of writing. Typically, MG/YA novels tend to have certain tropes:
  • Fast-paced, action-based plot
  • A focus on characters (i.e. Very close narration, as opposed to a distant narrator)
  • Themes dealing with discovery and the self’s place in the world and context of that discovery
I tend to look at books as having two key elements: plot and character. Next week, I’ll talk more about what makes a MG/YA character, but today I’m going to show you the difference between a MG and YA plot. 

As you can tell from above, the themes of both MG and YA novels are pretty universal themes that apply to many tweens and teens—discovering who you are, what the world is like, and your role in the world. And while nearly every teen goes through this as they grow up, lots of adults are still struggling with this concept, too, which is the appeal of crossover books—books that are pretty much universally loved and appreciated by both adults and younger readers.

However, the primary difference between MG and YA in terms of plot is that MG tends to have outward-focused adventures, while YA has at least an element of an inward focused adventure. The best cross-over (imo) is one that has both an outward and inward adventure.

As usual, I think Calvin and Hobbes can better explain what the real meaning of genres are:

This is MG:

This is YA:

This is Cross-Over:

To see a complete list of writing posts as well as request topics, please see the master Writing Wednesday post here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Giveaway & Interview with Jay Kristoff, author of STORMDANCER

Quick Stats on Jay Kristoff
  • Jay regularly references Firefly and Serenity and that's pretty much the most important think you need to know about him. You guys know that anyone who does that is all right in my book.
  • His blog makes me laugh out loud. You can also stalk him on Twitter here.
  • STORMDANCER is his debut, and it's a steampunk Japanese story, which makes me both jealous (because, eff it, I wanted to write a steampunk Japanese story!) and also incredibly happy because now there's a steampunk Japanese story in the world. Steampunk Japanese. I don't think I said that enough in this bulletpoint. 
  • On Jay's website, he claims he's 6'7". Which makes him the tallest author I know. I kind of want to see him do an event with Kiersten White now. For reasons. Height reasons. And also because they're both hilarious.
  • STORMDANCER comes out on September 18--you should probably look into pre-ordering it now.

We can read all about your life from your bio in the jacket flap of your book. So, what's a completely random fact about you that most people don't know?
My wife and I eloped in Rome. If you’re getting stressed about planning a wedding, I sincerely recommend it. Coolest and most romantic city in the world.

As a kid, what was your favorite book? Have your tastes changed since growing up?
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. It’s still my favorite book of all time.

Your book, STORMDANCER, is a Japanese-inspired steampunk. Which came first: the Asian setting, or the steampunk world?
Steampunk, I think. I really liked the SP aesthetic and wanted to do something with it, but I felt like Victorian England had been done a lot. Too many frock coats and cups o’ tea, pip pip what ho guv’nor. The world had plenty of amazing cultures during the 19th century an author could riff off, and as far as I knew, nobody had done Japan. And here we are :)

It's the inevitable question: what inspired STORMDANCER?
A dream. But that’s the lamest answer ever. So if someone can think of a better story, I’ll totally go with that. Something involving sexy ninjas and some kind of secret destiny would be sweet.

One of the things that stood out to me in STORMDANCER was the totally unique and immersive world. How did you go about developing it?
Drank lots of saké. Ate pocky until my eyes bled. Had my friends yell curse words at me in Japanese while I trawled Wikipedia and watched Seven Samurai and 13 Assassins over and over and overrrrrr.

Can you tell us a little bit about the process--particularly the timeline--of writing & publishing STORMDANCER?
I started writing it in January 2010. First draft took around six months. I actually trunked it about eight chapters in - my previous attempt at a novel had been a very dark and angsty vampire novel (nobody sparkled, everybody died) and I felt a little silly going from that to a story about a telepathic samurai girl and her friend the griffin. But something about the characters and the setting dragged me back.

I started querying in August. I had four offers of rep by November. We went on sub around Thanksgiving, and by Jan 2011 we were in a three-way auction, which was very strange and very cool. As for what happened to the last 18 months, I’m not really sure. Aliens may have been involved. Or possibly sexy ninjas.

If your reader could only take away one emotion, theme, or idea from STORMDANCER, what would you want it to be? 
Open your eyes. Open your mind. Close your hand and make a fist.

What's the most surprising thing you've learned since becoming a writer? 
Apparently, people think I’m funny. Which is kinda baffling to me, because in real life, I’m as funny as a funeral. Like, the funeral of a school bus full of kids and cute puppies. Eaten by werewolves. On their birthdays. And then they exploded. BOOM.

Tragic :(

Beyond the typical--never give up, believe in yourself--what would be the single best advice you'd like to give another writer?
Never finish a writing session by finishing a scene. If you leave the scene hanging, when you sit down to write the next day, you’ll be able to pick it up immediately where you left off. You won’t be stuck sitting there, looking at the flashing Cursor of Doom™ wondering wtf happens next.

What do you think are your strongest and weakest points in writing?
I think I write nice violence (if violence can ever be nice). I’m never happier than when something is disintegrating or getting disemboweled.

My weak point is definitely sex scenes. I feel ridiculous writing them. The whole time I’m writing them, I’m imagining my mother reading them, which is the death of happy-pants.

Any specific websites or info you’d like me to include somewhere in the interview?
Stormdancer is released on 18 September. If you could link my twitter feed (@misterkristoff) and website ( that’d be sweet.

And, because Jay is awesome, he's offering a giveaway of STORMDANCER--and he's SIGNING it--to a lucky winner! Just fill out the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win. Open internationally.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Request About ARCs

It's official! ARCs are starting to be shipped! And speaking of--if you're a reviewer who would like to request and Advanced Reader Copy, then please fill out the form here. (No need to do it twice if you've already done it before).

But! I would like to make a request of everyone who reads the book early!

Please be careful to not reveal any spoilers. I know I don't really need to tell you guys this because you are the kind of readers who don't want to give away spoilers for the book. But there are some pretty big reveals in Shades, and I hope you don't mind me giving one more reminder--don't spoil the book for those who've not read it yet!

Thank you! 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Writing Wednesday: The Shape of the Novel

I tend to think of novels in terms of shapes. It’s weird, and I can’t draw it out exactly, but basically, I usually think of the shape of a book when I start writing, and then again when I start to edit. 

Now, this advice is not going to be for everyone. You need to understand that what I write and read tends to be commercial genre YA fiction, so the shape of the story I’m talking about is the shape of a commercial genre YA novel. Other novels have different shapes, and I suspect that, in the end, what type of book we like tends to be determined by what shape we want our stories to take. 

Disclaimer: My mother would not approve of the language I use when I think about my own novels, so I used comic-book symbols to replace some words. 

First Fifty Pages
This is where you have to make the reader care about what happens to the main character. This should usually happen in the first few pages, actually. Because…

By the End of the First Fifty Pages
S!^& just hit the fan.

By the Halfway Point of the Novel
S!^& just got real.

By Fifty Pages Until the End of the Novel
S!^& is seriously effed up.

By the End of the Novel
S!^& ain’t so bad any more.

So this is a really blase way to talk about this, but it’s actually pretty much how I chop up my novels into sections and look about how it all works. I guess if I had to describe this shape, it would look something like this (with a note of what these points are more traditionally called):

Click to embiggen

I came up with this theory when I was still querying, actually. I noticed that most agents who asked for a partial asked for the first fifty pages of the manuscript. But a lot of the time, I’d really want to show the agent this really cool thing that happened on page 70 or 80 or 100. So…I cut things until the really cool thing happened by page 50. And that seemed, usually, to clear everything back up. 

I don’t really plan that much before a novel, but I do sort of think of those points as the main highlights I need to shoot for during writing. Where this really hits me is when I revise. I tend to put much more information between the sections than what needs to be there. I get hung up on telling the reader something that seems essential—but the long and the short of it is, if it doesn’t deal with the important s!^&, so it has to go.

To see a complete list of writing posts as well as request topics, please see the master Writing Wednesday post here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

September Events!

AHHH! August was a nice, peaceful month. No travel at all (except for fun) which was crazy!! But now it's September, and it's time to jump back into the fray :)

First up--TOMORROW!--is an awesome panel with a group of awesome people. Come to Malaprops in Asheville, September 5, at 7pm to meet me, Gwenda Bond (author of BLACKWOOD), Meagan Spooner (author of SKYLARK), Susan Dennard (author of SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY), and Sarah Maas (author of THRONE OF GLASS). Our panel is about Unexpected Heroines and it is going to be awesome! Find out more information here.

And then, this Friday! I'll be at the Carolina's Mountain Literary Festival in Burnsville, NC. I've got two panels, both with the lovely and wonderful Stephanie Perkins, and I am stoked to get to spend the day with her! It's basically going to be a huge amount of fun. We're going to talk about publishing and writing, and the majority of each panel will be straight-up Q&A from the audience. So if you'd like to learn anything about the publishing and writing world, check us out! Find out more information here.

After two local(ish) events, I'm packing my bags and heading north--waaaaay north!--to Edmonton, Canada. I am so thrilled to be at this Smart Chicks Kick It tour stop, along with Kelley Armstrong, Melissa Marr, Ally Condie, Charles de Lint, Veronica Roth, and Margaret Stohl.  I know, look at how awesome that is. I can't even believe how amazing that line-up is. The event is September 13, and you guys? It's gonna be epic. Find out more information here.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Winners of the Breathless Reads Interview Week

Thanks everyone for making this week so much fun! I don't know about you, but I had a blast learning about all the new books coming out this fall from Penguin Teen!

And congrats to the winners! I've contacted the winners already via email.

  • Anna W-G won all five Breathless Reads books
  • Michael L won ORIGIN
  • Lisa C won THE INNOCENTS
  • Shauna R. won FALLING KINGDOMS
  • Lea K won VENOM
  • Anna T. S. won BLACK CITY