Saturday, February 27, 2010

Friday Book Recommendation!

I know I am posting this on Saturday. PLEASE forgive me this time.

There is an interesting cover story on this book here.

Product Details

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (September 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1599903059
  • ISBN-13: 978-1599903057


Please don’t give away any of the twists and turns ofLiar.

Liar is my first thriller. It’s from the point of view of a compulsive liar. And I mean compulsive. Micah’s been messing with my head for years and she’s about to mess with yours. You cannot believe a word she says, which means that her revelations cannot be taken at face value. So what you think is the big spoiler probably isn’t because there isn’t one big spoiler, there are many.

I’d be dead pleased if you could keep quiet about all of them.

I deliberately wrote the book to be read in at leasttwo different ways. You may think you know what kind of book it is and what kind of person Micah is, but you’ll find other readers will disagree with you completely. There is no one right way to read this book. And that’s why I’m so keen for readers not to spoil it for others. Because I want each reader to come to their own conclusions.

Liar is as much a jigsaw puzzle as a novel, but one where the pieces can go together in many different ways. Writing it was a puzzle, too. I wrote it back to front and inside out. Not from start to finish, but scene by scene. As I wrote I shuffled scenes around, rewriting them with every move. It was one of the most enjoyable writing experiences of my career. I could feel my brain stretching as I wrote. (In a good way.) I hope reading it has the same effect on you.

Just don’t spoil it, okay?"

I won't spoil this book for you. Not just because Justine asked, but because it was such an incredible surprise to me, that I wouldn't dare ruin any of it for you.

Seventeen year old Micah is a compulsive liar. She always stays one step ahead of her lies, until her after-hours boyfriend is murdered, and her classmates and even the police start to suspect her.

I wish I could tell you more. All I can say is that LIAR will blow your mind. It is a must read.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Yalitchat: Let's Talk About Sex, Baby.

***NOTE: Please excuse the horrible formatting in this post. Blogger wants to bunch my text into one block. It's being stubborn today.***

YA Lit Chat is hosted by YA writer, Georgia McBride. You can catch the live #yalitchat on twitter, Wednesday night at 9pm EST or anytime on the web at

Last night, we talked about sex. Also word count(40-60k is average for YA) and slang, but mostly the sex. A taboo topic that seems to be becoming the norm in teen fiction.

Does your book need to have nookie to sell?
Heck no! In fact, it may even lessen your chances at a sale if done in bad taste.

Sex is a part of teen life. Not all teens, of course, but if we're being real we know they're doing it. As writers, we want to incorporate every part of teen life into our books. We want the stories we spin to be as real to them as their own lives.

Everything is bigger, more important, felt deeper when you're a teen. One of the most important, most monumental experiences for a teen, is the first time they have sex. That doesn't mean that the sex in your book has to have monumental consequences. It could change the relationship, it could change the character's outlook on things. Or, she could end up pregnant, or with a heady case of the clap. Your choice. Point is, it doesn't have to end badly, because it doesn't always in real life. The last thing you want to do is try to teach a lesson with your writing. If you don't agree with sex in YA, don't write it. Simple as that.

If you do decide to write sex in to your story, do it tastefully. Explicit sex is a big no-no in YA. Besides, you'd probably feel icky writing it. Lit agent, Elana Roth had this to say last night:

@elanaroth: I think people use explicit sex b/c they dont know how to really depict the emotional arc behind it. Its cheap. #yalitchat

Don't write sex for the sake of writing it. If it feels forced to you, you don't need/want it in there. Often a first kiss can be even more sensual than sex. I'm going to post a first kiss scene from one of my works. It isn't finalized (is it ever?), but I hope you'll get a taste of what I mean with a first kiss. This scene comes after a few almost kisses, and lots and lots of sexual tension. This kiss deepens the relationship between the MC and Drystan.

The rain trickled from his nose and eye lashes onto his face leaving behind glistening trails like rilles on the surface of the moon. He took my chin in his hand and I had to fight to keep myself from getting lost in those electric blue pools. He was terrifying and beautiful and I couldn’t look away. My cheeks flushed hot as he moved his face closer to mine. His cool, sweet breath—lavender, like his skin, tickled my nose.

“Drystan—” But before I could utter another word, his hand clamped onto my lower back, pulling me toward him and he pressed his lips to mine. I tensed, only for a moment and then my hands rested on the dimples of his hips like they’d always belonged there. His fingers nipped at my skin, pulling me tighter still, pawing at my back, my shoulders, cupping my face. His lips were even softer than I’d imagined and I felt like melting ice in his hands. His kiss was dizzying, as cool and sweet as his breath. But then it turned in to something deeper.


There was no sex in that scene. Only a passionate first kiss. It was my favorite scene to write and I hope you enjoyed reading it. If not, feel free to tell me. *wink*

Here is another example of how a first kiss can go. This work, another of mine, is in the rough draft stages. I probably shouldn't be posting it because of that, but what the heck. In this one, the main character is in the bedroom of a boy who is obviously crazy about her, but she can't stop thinking about Jesse, the boy she can never have. The reason she can't have him, I'll keep to myself. This kiss takes the relationship of both the MC and her friend, Tom, in a whole new direction.

I closed my eyes. I could hear Tom stand up and cross the room. He sat next to me on the futon, still playing, still singing. It was almost as if Jesse had walked into the room with me.

I pictured Jesse’s face, sitting beside me instead of Tom. He was so incredibly beautiful. I reached out and touched his soft, full lips. He stopped singing. I felt him lean closer to me, pictured the longing I felt in his eyes. I leaned in and pressed my lips to his. We kissed, slowly at first, but then with more fire.

Jesse set his guitar down and slid closer to me. His breath was sweet, spearmint. He tangled his fingers in my hair and pressed our lips together, harder. I touched his cheek with my hand, felt the corner of his mouth with my thumb as his lips parted.


So again, first kiss that can have more of an effect on the story than a sex scene. Or at least I hope it does.

Getting back to sex, if you're going to write it make sure it's realistic, not graphic and pertinent to your story. Like anything else, if it doesn't move your story along, don't include it. Lit agent and YA author, Mandy Hubbard, had this to say:

@MandyHubbard: Sex isnt really edgy, anymore, in YA. Its just.... realistic. But still gotta handle it authentically! #yalitchat

And there you have it, folks. Do the do, or don't. But whatever you decide, keep it real.

If you have a great kiss scene that you'd like to share, we'd love to read it!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Keeping Track Of Shiny New Ideas

If you're like me, whenever you're in the middle of doing something that requires all of your focus (say, revising your novel *cough*) that's when you get hit with a Shiny New Idea(!) I find if I don't do something with those ideas, right away, I lose the spark and can't always get it back.

What I do, is as soon as a SNI hits, I write it down. In as much detail as possible. I keep each shiny new idea in it's own notebook. Specifically, Mead Five Star 1 Subject Notebooks, like these:
(I am perhaps, a little obsessed with them.) I buy them in every color possible because I have synesthesia and the color of the notebook is important to me. Seriously. Like, my current SNI is in a dark blue notebook. I could never write it in say a red, or lime green one, because the story is most definitely not lime green. Which sounds crazy, but trust me when I say this all makes sense. Anyhoo.

I like to free write.

Generally, I start with the bio of my main character. Most of my ideas start with either a character or a "what if". My current SNI started with a "what if" about a boy. So I knew both the situation and the character.

I label a blank page CHARACTER(S) and scribble down everything I know about this character, and usually, just the act of doing this reveals more and more info about the character and the plot.

After that, I label a new blank page BASIC INFO and write out the basics of the plot starting with a logline, like: A boy does ________ and learns _______. Or whatever. Then I go into more detail. Again, just the act of putting down vague ideas makes them clearer and adds in more detail.

I never pressure myself about this. This is all fun. It's like cleaning out a closet. I try to take every single thought I have about this idea and just get it on paper so that later I can go through it and know what I was thinking, the vibe of the story, etc.

I think in scenes so once I have my character and basic situation (plot) I tend to have a jumble of visual images and emotions of things that happen in the story. I start a new page labeled - can you guess? Yep, SCENES and I try to write out everything I see and hear (my ideas tend to play out like movies in my head) about the scene. I then ask myself, what happened? What lead up to this moment? Why is this happening? What happens after this? I write out all the dialogue I "hear", even if it doesn't totally make sense, because I don't want to miss anything that just might be brilliant.

The best thing about this process is that it opens up my mind to more ideas about the story. I discover new characters, and events within the story world, and that keeps it brewing in the back of my mind while I'm working on what I'm supposed to be doing. I will usually come back several times to add thoughts, new character details, songs for a playlist, etc. It also gives me piece of mind that my story will still be there when I have the time to devote to it.

By the time I'm ready to work on that story, I usually have my main character's voice, all my key scenes and plot twists worked out.

Using a separate notebook for each idea gives me the added bonus of feeling productive. I get a rush when I look at my stack of ideas and know that I have some cool ideas that I'm excited about waiting for me. I don't feel lost, or overwhelmed because I've already done most of the work in just a few minutes of stolen minutes of free time each day.

What about you? Do you have any writing obsessions like my notebooks? What do you do with your Shiny New Ideas?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Writing Vacations

I took a writing vacation this week. No, I don't mean one of those retreats where you spend a week writing in the mountains whilst the nature in which you're submersed fuels your creative drive. That sounds heavenly and something I would love to do once the kiddos are older -- it'll be a nice change from writing whilst submersed in chaos and Cheerios. What I mean is I took a vacation FROM writing -- for the most part. I had family in town the last 2 weekends and have spent time skiing (see prior post), eating, playing Wii, watching a plethora o' Netflix movies, and just hanging out. Also, a ton of Olympic watching has been going on in this household. I did do minor revising during commercial breaks between skiing and figure skating, but there's not an Olympic sport I haven't found fascinating (my hubby draws the line at ice-dancing).

My only other book-related activity involved hosting book club and cooking for 11 women but we read and discussed a non-YA book which was a nice change of pace. Side note: The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent is an A-MAZING book told by the 10th generation granddaughter of a woman who was hanged after accusations of witchery in Salem.

Why I took a break:
Normally I do something writing related every-single-night. Even when I'm tired, even when the thought of revising again makes me want to vomit. The night before I took my break, I told my hubby for the first time that I was sick of the sight of my book. He laughed and told me now I know how he feels. When he's played a show, I've asked why he didn't sing a song he wrote that's one of my favorites -- he says because when he's sung a song 300 times, it starts to get old. I felt like I'd read my ms at least 300 times and didn't want to look at it again. I was gentle with it though. I told it I wasn't breaking up with it or anything, but I needed a little space.

What happened?
Nothing. The world didn't end. I had a great week and am ready to get down to business. Best of all - I missed my book. I'm ready to resume the relationship. The thought of revising motivates me again because I'm so close to the end. Granted, if I had things like editorial deadlines, etc., I'd have to plan my vacations accordingly. But for now, I can recharge my batteries whenever it feels necessary.

Bottom line advice:
I'm not advocating for slackerdom here. I am super hard on myself when writing the first draft, which is why it only took me 6 weeks to write. I give myself deadlines and stick to them. Despite the spontaneous vacation, I'm still on track for my end of month deadline. I'm just saying it's okay to give yourself a break once in awhile. In fact, by resting and enjoying friends/family/Olympics/whatever, you enrich your life and chances are, you'll enrich your writing as well.

What about you? Do you take vacations from writing? Are they always planned? Have you ever broken up with your manuscript and gotten back together?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday Book Recommendation!

Read the Cover Story at Melissa Walker's blog. Very sexy indeed.

from Amazon:

Product Details

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Simon Pulse; 1 edition (January 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416986189

Product Description

Love can be a dangerous thing....

Hanna simply wants to be loved. With a head plagued by hallucinations, a medicine cabinet full of pills, and a closet stuffed with frilly, violet dresses, Hanna's tired of being the outcast, the weird girl, the freak. So she runs away to Portero, Texas in search of a new home.

But Portero is a stranger town than Hanna expects. As she tries to make a place for herself, she discovers dark secrets that would terrify any normal soul. Good thing for Hanna, she's far from normal. As this crazy girl meets an even crazier town, only two things are certain: Anything can happen and no one is safe.

I was very impressed with this book. It has been a long time since I read something so unique. Not only the character of Hanna, being biracial and manic depressive, but also with the town of Portero--the monsters, the Mortmaine. It was such a fun read; dark, daring and sometimes frightening, Reeves definitely brought sexy back to YA.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Story ARC

If you're an aspiring writer, no doubt you've heard tell about story ARC and it's importance. Most of you probably understand story ARC, but for those of you still in the dark I'm going to discuss what I know of it. Mainly because I can't think of anything else to discuss with you today. Sad, I know.

What is arc?
Quite simply, it is your story line. The flow of your novel from beginning to end.

What is the purpose of the arc?
To move your story of character forward. To effect change.

Some classic examples of story arc:
The fall from grace. The bitch-queen of high school falls off her throne and mingles among the commoners, only to realize she has a brain and a heart.

The reversal, a character finding strength. The geek girl finally gets accepted by her peers and becomes popular.

**These are really poor, generic examples**

I always think of a line graph when I'm talking about story arc, and I found this great image from

story structure

Beginning: Inner conflict- Your character is struggling with something.

Plot point 1: A crisis happens, throwing everything off track and forcing your character to face something she would otherwise avoid.

Middle: The middle is the most difficult for me to write. I want to make everything happen to fast. This is the part that needs the most revising.

This is where the character needs to face a number of obstacles that move her toward her goal. The important thing to remember here, is that you must keep raising the stakes. Minor tragedy, followed by a major tragedy. If something monumental happens first, it lessens the impact of the subsequent event.

Plot point 2: When all hope seems lost, something happens here that changes the direction of the story again, and the character's goals go from being unreachable to achievable. This is the point of the story where the stakes are highest. Danger, Will Robinson! Danger.
Your character will draw upon all she's learned or gained from those climbing crisis' and use that knowledge to overcome this major obstacle.

End: Yay! She did it! Or not.
The end is just that. The end. This is where we see how the character was able to overcome her situation and prevail, or fail miserably. Depends on what you're writing. But hopefully she prevails, because we like happy endings. Or honest ones, at least. The ending is where you need to tie up your loose ends (all or most, depends on the story). This is where the reader sees the change in the character. The fruit of her labor.

Every time I think about endings, I think about THE LUXE series by Anna Godbersen. I absolutely loved this series. And I loved the way it ended, even though not everything was "happy". It ended just as it should have. Each of the characters got what they deserved, whether or not that's what we, the reader, rooted for. The characters change and grow throughout the series and in the end, that growth is obvious:
The naive romantic grows up.
The playboy settles down.
The persistent trouble-maker relents.
Tragedy strikes the sweetheart, but she overcomes.
Every character experiences change in this series and the last book leaves the reader wholly satisfied with all the loose-ends tied into neat little bows.

If your book is the first of a series, obviously not everything will be tied off at the end, but make sure that book can stand alone.
Happy writing!

One reference book that helped me was HOW TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD NOVEL by James N. Frey

How to Write a Damn Good Novel

A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling

By James N. Frey
(St. Martin's Press, Hardcover, 9780312010447, 192pp.)

Publication Date: December 1987

Categories: General, Composition & Creative Writing - Fiction

Buy online from an indie bookstore
Find an indie bookstore near you

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The All-Important First Chapter

Last week I entered Miss Snark's First Victim's Secret Agent contest (see my entry here) and got some GREAT feedback on my work. Since the contest deals with the first 250 words, all of which I rewrote for the contest, I thought this was a great time to talk about first chapters.

Last summer I attended the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. I took a workshop on first chapters called "Frontloading: The Crucial First Chapter" and the thing I learned that stuck with me the most was that the first chapter is a promise to the reader. It tells them what kind of story they're going to be getting, and what to expect. This is true, even if you don't intend for your first chapter to do that, because it's the way we read. Breaking that promise can frustrate, and disappoint your reader.

That doesn't mean you should give everything away. You don't have to reveal your plot twists, but if your book is a sci-fi thriller, don't let your first chapter read like chick-lit.

By the end of the first chapter, the reader should have some sense of what the main conflict of the book is going to be. They don't need to know all the details, but they should be able to tell the genre, have a good sense of who (what type of person)the main character is, and how their world is changing. Knowing these things sets up anticipation in the reader, it makes them want to read on and see how the events unfold. Not knowing these things makes the reader wonder what the heck this book is about, and if they should even bother to read on and see what happens.

Here's an example of a book with a great first chapter:

The Hunger Games - In the first chapter of The Hunger Games we get to see Katniss' everyday world. We learn about the Hunger Games and the Reaping and the high chance that Gale and Katniss will be picked. We see that Katniss is responsible and protective of her sister, Prim, whose name is in the Reaping for the first time. And in the very last sentence of the chapter there's a shock as Prim's name is called. This is a GREAT end of a first chapter. As a reader we are left with a sense of dread. We know what Katniss must do, and we know that we're in for an exciting ride because we're going to experience the Hunger Games with Katniss. We're also introduced to the mechanics of Collin's writing - cliffhanger chapters. Both with story and with structure, she has shown us what to expect, and how to read her book. And she delivers. (Seriously, if you have not read this book yet, go get it NOW.)

Now imagine if The Hunger Games started differently. What if the first chapter was an ordinary day at school for Katniss, followed by time at home dealing with her mother and sister. Suzanne Collins could've started there and gone into greater detail about Katniss' troubled relationship with her mom, given us more history on the District, how life in The Seam works, etc. She could've had the Reaping happen in chapter 3. If she had though, she probably would've lost a lot of readers. I know I would've been flipping back to the cover over and over again, wondering when these supposedly awesome Hunger Games were going to start. I probably would've put the book down before the action started and picked up something else.

The first chapter is the last chapter in disguise.
- Richard Peck

I read this quote for the first time not long ago and was struck by how true it was. Richard Peck says that when he finishes his first draft, he always throws out the first chapter without reading it and writes a new one.

I thought about why it is that the first chapter is usually the one that needs the most work and I think I figured out at least part of why this is true.

Usually, at the beginning of a story I am bursting with ideas and information. I know my main character is this, and her love interest is that, and then this, this, and this are going to happen, all because of THAT! And so I'm excited to get to that stuff, and I start laying down all the pieces and facts necessary for the later events to occur.

I've come to realize the first chapter, (and the whole first draft really) but especially in the first draft, the first chapter is really just notes to myself. It's me getting that info out there so that I can remember to make it happen when the time comes.

After the first chapter, my writing tends to smooth out. I let things unfold the way they should, revealing information only when it's necessary. Most of the time this results in duplicate information. Things appear once, in the first chapter where they're not really needed, and again later on where they belong.

How to fix your first chapter.
I'm no expert, but here are a few tips that work for me:

  • Rewrite it from scratch.
  • Look for and remove exposition that doesn't come into play until later in the story.
  • Start at the moment closest to the beginning of the main conflict of your story as possible.
  • Make sure your chapter has action, and not just a character thinking about or looking at stuff.
  • Make sure the main conflict of your book is set up.
  • Ask people to read the first chapter by itself. What do they think the book is about? Do they want to keep reading?

You know you're on the right track if people have a sense of where your book is going to go and they want to go along with it.

What about you? What are some of your first chapter tips? What are some of your favorite first chapters?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Skiing and Writing -- and New Contest

We went skiing this weekend and it was my 5-year-old's first real time on the slopes. I had no idea what to expect from the day, especially since due to the heavy snow coming down around us, we changed plans and ended up at a mountain I've never skied before. Watching everyone around me throughout the day, I was struck by the similarities between skiing and writing. Here's my short yet profound list:

How Skiing is Like Writing

1. The more you do it, the better you get. My son's first run involved crashing his way down the bunny slope. My brother, an expert skier, and my hubby (not an expert but way better than me) were teaching him the snow plow technique in between crashes. My son sighed at the end of this run, proclaiming he was not very good at skiing. Fast forward to the end of the day and he went down a longer run TWICE without falling at all. Seriously, he was the snow plow king. At the end of the last run, he pumped his fist in the air, yelling "I did it!" It was priceless and reminded me that perseverance pays off -- you get better at something the more you do it. Most writers have heard of the million bad words thing. It's true. The more you write, the better you get. It's not always easy, in fact, some days you might want to bang your head against your keyboard (or is that just me?) but it's the ones who stick with it who make it.

2. Experts stand out from the crowd. One of the green runs we skied opened into a black diamond run. I stood at the bottom of the green run waiting for my peeps and surveyed the boarders and skiers coming down the hill. I guessed which ones were going to continue to the black run by watching how they skied/boarded the first 100 feet (yeah, I do crazy stuff like this all the time). Anyway, it was easy. The experts stood out from the rest -- and made it look like a walk in the park. Writing is no different. Though individual tastes differ, people usually agree on whether a writer is gifted in their craft. I recently judged a writing contest (which I'll blog about on a later post), but it was very easy to identify the beginners from those who had spent a lot of time honing their craft (see point #1).

3. You can't be afraid to ask for help. My son had no trouble asking us for help on the slopes when he needed it. Adults can be a touch more reluctant to admit they need assistance. Here's a tidbit from my last run. My son was ecstatic over the success of his last run and we decided to call it a day. It was after 4pm and we wanted him to end on a good note. My hubby was taking him down the mountain using the gondola. I hadn't fallen all day, save for one time my son used me as a snowplow alternative to stop himself, so I was feeling pretty confident. The gondola was the easy way down and I wasn't having that. Not when there was a 3 mile plus trail I could take with my brother.

I should have factored in the fact that the snowstorm had really picked up and the snow was blowing so hard it was difficult to see very far in front of me. I should have factored in the fact that the sun was sinking and the night ski lights had turned on, meaning the slope was not the soft powder I had skied on earlier. It was ice. I was peachy for the first mile. The second mile I glanced at the emergency phone after three spectacular wipeouts but still thought 'I don't need help.'

My 'I Need Help' Moment
Flash forward 30 seconds to the beginning of the third mile and I'm flat on my back staring up into the blinding snow. It takes a man bringing me my skis to realize I've flown out of them. My brother is a short distance down the hill trying to climb up to me. I refuse to put my skis back on and try to walk down the hill. Apparently, ski boots slip on ice too and I fall again. I.Am.Tired. Also, with the wind chill, it's 2 degrees and I'm freezing. There in the swirling snow I spot another emergency phone. My brother tells me he thinks I can make it down but it's my call. NOTE: I often tell clients in my psychology practice that asking for help is a sign of strength. I DO NOT feel that way when faced with calling ski patrol. After a minute of debate with myself, I use the emergency phone. The first thing they ask me is if I'm injured. I tell them not yet but I will be if I keep going, so they send this ski patrol guy with a big sled. It's already filled with snowboarders -- all women. Observational Note about this gender discrepancy: Either men are genetically better at winter sports or they're just as likely to ask for help on the slopes as they are with directions. The sled ride down is pretty cool and the exhausted girl behind me whispers that it's the most fun she had all day.

As I sit on my couch watching the Olympics, I don't regret the call for a second because I'm NOT injured -- physically anyway, my ego is another story. I can't wait to get back out and ski again because I'm going to ask for even more help -- in the form of another lesson and advice from my bro. In writing, critique groups are one way of asking for help in terms of making your work the best it can be. Attending conferences and reading writing blogs are other ways of seeking help in your journey to becoming a better writer. Bottom line: Don't be afraid to ask for help. Really. It makes the quality of your writing grow by leaps and bounds -- and it can save you some bodily injury.

There you have it. Any skiers out there? Anything you would add to this list? As I'm an Olympic watching nerd, I've got to get back to figure skating. Speaking of skiing, did anyone catch Bode Miller's run -- awesome!

NEW CONTEST: The wonderful Shelli from Market My Words is also having an awesome contest for both the agented and unagented. Prizes are amazing so enter here.

Awesome contest involving 5 LITERARY AGENTS

I'm a huge fan of Elana J. and she's hosting a contest where you can win a query critique by one of 5 incredible literary agents. You can also win Elana's amazing book (which I already own) among other prizes. You have until Sunday so enter here! Good luck!


There is another contest, associated with this one on author Shelli Johannes-Wells' blog. Go there to learn some great marketing tips and enter for some fabulous prizes all week long!

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Happy Valentine's Day from the Sisters in Scribe!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Book Recommendation!

I know we've never posted book review/recommendations here before, but as writers, we all read. A lot. So why not talk about the books we love? We'll try doing these every Friday, and see how it goes.

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins

Product Details

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press (September 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0439023483

Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, "TheHunger Games." The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When Kat's sister is chosen by lottery, Kat steps up to go in her place.

This book is not to be missed. It grips you from the very first page and--like the ladder that lifts Katnis into the hovercraft--it holds you there. I read until I had a splitting headache, took a motrin and went back at it. Collins creates such remarkable characters and throws them into a vivid world where anything can happen and their every move is monitored by people who would rather see them die a gruesome death, than have a scrap of food. There were times I wanted to scream a warning at Katnis! And times I wanted to cry right along with her. This book has it all. A must read!

As most of you probably know, the cover for the third book in this series, Mockingjay, was just released. If you haven't seen it, here it is.
The Hunger Games - Book Three - by #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Suzanna Collins. 8.24.10.

Notice from the first book, the bird is gold and enclosed in a circle. By book 2, the bird is more realistic, and here she's alive and broken free from the circle. Cool, right?
Feels like I am the last person to read this book, but better late than never!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cell-phone books. There's a Novel idea.

A friend of mine linked me to an article this morning about a 15 year old girl in Japan, writing under the alias of Bunny, who has sold over 100,000 printed books grossing more than $600,000 that all started on her cell-phone.

Her cell-phone!

She texted 1,000 character segments, uploaded them to publishing website, where the writer can receive instant feedback on her work. Eventually, her cell-phone novel landed her a three book deal for her series Wolf Boy x Natural Girl.

Here is the link to the full LA Times article, if you'd like to know more about Bunny and her novel.

This story reminds me of another author. One I've had the pleasure of chatting up via twitter, and who has stopped by my personal blog on more than one occasion.
Shannon Delany, author of 13 to Life: A Werewolf's tale (June 22 2010) made her start with a text novel--the first ever in the Western World!

In 2008 I became the winner of the first-ever cellphone novel contest in the western world with my serial novel 13 TO LIFE. I like to believe I brought an American twist to the Japanese cellphone novel concept. My serial novel was a short, consumable read with a rebellious heart and layers of subtext. Unlike typical Asian cellphone novels written by young women in a semi-autobiographical fashion-- 13 TO LIFE is their energetic and dangerous teenage American cousin.

What started as a simple cellphone novel at grew into a multi-book deal with St. Martin's Press for13 TO LIFE. I've gotten some amazing reviews from bestselling authors and I recognize that I'm truly blessed. Book 1 in the 13 TO LIFE series comes out June 22, 2010 through St. Martin's Griffin.

I invite you to pick up a copy of 13 TO LIFE and see how a simple cellphone novel like the version still posted in its rough and ready form grew into a New York City-style series of traditional novels.

It doesn't matter how you got your start or what motivated you to do it. If you believe in yourself, and you want it bad enough, writing a publishable novel isn't out of reach. I realize that sounds very after-school-special of me, but I'm in one of those moods. Deal. *hugs*

13 To Life, June 22nd 2010

Monday, February 8, 2010

Writing Income and New Young Adult Writing Contest

As I've discussed before, I'm all about baby steps when in comes to writing. This week marked another teeny step along the path of my writing journey. In the mail this week, I received my very first check for my writing. Okay, my day job involves tons of writing (psychological evaluations) and pays really well but it's not the same as creative writing -- although you couldn't fabricate stories any stranger than some I've heard the past ten years. At any rate, I got a check for a whopping $3.93 -- yes, I put the decimal point in the correct place. My check from my day job also came this week and was much higher, yet I wasn't nearly as excited about it.

How Far $3.93 Can Go
$3.93 might not buy a lot. In fact, it might not buy me anything because my hubby is trying to convince me to frame it and put it on the wall! Note: this check has nothing to do with my novel writing -- it was for writing a creative ad for an online site that apparently had to be clicked eight gazillion times to earn that $3.93 but's a step in the direction I want to go. So, while anyone out there who has earned money for their writing has earned more than I have, I feel like a rich woman indeed this week.

Other baby steps for the week: STILL REVISING! 70 pages to go but received flat-out amazing compliments from my lovely Critiquers. One comment kept me smiling all week -- I'm even filing it away in case my book never finds an agent/sells. I'll think "At least a published author thinks 'xxx.'" Yeah, it's been a good week. I know one of my Sisters has had an incredible week as well and I'm super excited for her!

What about you? What are your baby steps for the week?

The Guide to Literary Agents is hosting a great contest that's open until the 21st of Feb. for those with completed Middle Grade or Young Adult manuscripts. The wonderful Jennifer Laughran from the Andrea Brown Agency is the judge and you can win a 25-page critique! Check out contest rules and details here.

Why are you still reading? Go enter this contest - NOW!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Winner of Blood Promise!

We wanted to say thank you to all who spread the word and entered our contest! We had a total of 80 people enter with 464 entries! And I know you're dying to know who won, so I will get right to it!

******STACY W*******


Stacy, congratulations!!! I've sent you an email. Please check your spam folder, just in case.
Again, big thanks to EVERYONE who participated, and be on the lookout for more great contests from the Sisters in Scribe.

BuzzMyBlog Contest Winner Picker

Random Entry Selected:9
Odds of Winning:8 in 464
Entry Data:8, stacy w
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Monday, February 1, 2010

1st Pages with Agents Kristin Nelson & Kate Schafer-Testerman

Super-agents Kristin Nelson and Kate Schafer-Testerman were gracious enough to spend several hours dissecting the first pages of aspiring writers' manuscripts. As they've read thousands of first pages between them, I couldn't wait to hear their thoughts on what made for a strong (or weak) beginning. I figured most of those in attendance would be newbies like me, but my colleague pointed out multiple published authors in the crowd which surprised me. Since the event, Kristin has blogged about her experience from an agent's perspective so I'm here to give a writer's opinion of the process. On her blog, Kristin also includes examples of her own clients' first pages which offer amazing insight into what makes a great opening.

This SCBWI event involved the first two pages of a manuscript being read aloud by a volunteer. To demonstrate how Kate and Kristin read through their 'slush pile,' they would stop the reader when they had heard enough to make their decision -- then they'd give feedback about why they stopped. From a writer's perspective, it was an intense experience. They gave the option for people to back out if they didn't feel comfortable having their work read aloud but nobody declined. Kristin also stopped several times throughout the event to ask how the attendees were feeling which I found thoughtful. I'd guess there were about 50-60 people in attendance and I believe a total of 18-20 first pages were read aloud. As there were no queries or synopses attached, they based their opinions totally on the first 2 pages of the manuscript. Many times, it took them only a paragraph. For confidentiality purposes, I'm not giving specifics on the manuscripts -- just the feedback.

Trends in Feedback aka Things Kate and Kristin Didn't Like
* Characters waking up or beginning the story with a dream (the dream creates a faux conflict that doesn't really apply to the story)
* Abundance of alliteration :)
* Use of exclamation points at beginning of story before you've set up any real suspense
* Not connecting with the characters
* Tense switching, grammatical errors
* Humanizing animals -- they both really liked one that included this element and really didn't like all the other ones that did. I was surprised at how many stories involved animals. NOTE: If your story involves talking animals, it better be flippin' amazing.
* Story started in the wrong place -- this was a common one. They'd notice something interesting on page two of the story but felt page one was lacking.
* Flat narrative -- this one seemed harder for them to articulate being that there wasn't a specific stopping point, but more of a "I'm really not into this" feeling. I suspect this is one they catch in a minute when reading on their own and don't need to explain it -- they just know it's not working for them.
* Stories that have an 'education for children' vibe -- this was a huge turnoff for both agents. Tell a good story and leave the lecturing to parents/teachers (okay, this was my interpretation but you get the idea.)
* Stories sounding like an adult writing for MG. Yes, everyone attending was an adult, but the point was not to 'write down' to your audience. It's condescending and kids know the difference.
* Too quirky or confusing. As Kristin pointed out, you want the agent to keep reading because they have to know what happens, not because they're confused and have no idea what's happening. You can give teasers but don't deliberately withhold important information.

Personal Feedback Trends
Both agents said that they wouldn't represent something that was too similar to something they already represent or have already sold. For instance, one agent didn't want another superhero story and one didn't need another environmental issues book. These are things you might not know ahead of time unless you do a lot of research on each agent. NOTE: See my prior post on researching agents.

One page they both really liked (involving the aforementioned humanized animal) had a distinctive voice that was very humorous. I laughed out loud several times while it was being read, as did others around me. Kate and Kristin also interspersed their feedback with reading successful first pages of their clients which was extremely helpful. Overall, I can't state enough how invaluable the experience was for me. I learned a ton and greatly appreciate the time they took to do this event.

In Conclusion:
For me, the voice was what stood out most in the examples of successful pages. So if you go through the DON'T list above and feel good about it, check the voice of your story. Read your 1st 2 pages aloud or, better yet, have someone else do it so you can hear it from another perspective. I'm in the process of reading my entire ms aloud which has greatly helped the revision process.

Whatever you do, don't write a story about Sid the Superhero Squirrel who struggles with narcolepsy while trying to educate dumb children about recycling. I'm pretty sure Kate and Kristin don't want it.
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