Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Book Signings Rock!

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to attend an awesome gathering of YA authors and book bloggers!

YA Authors Kristina McBride (The Tension of Opposites) and J.T. Dutton (Stranded - 2010, Freaked - 2009) were doing a joint signing at the Borders in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Before the signing Kristina and Jen (J.T.) met up with a group of us Michiganders - including YA Author Carrie Harris whose debut YA novel Bad Taste In Boys comes out in July of 2011 and who came out even though she had NO electricity thanks to a huge storm the day before.

We didn't take any pictures while we were eating, but check us out at the awesome set up Borders had for the signing!

Back Row: Tirzah (The Compulsive Reader)     Kristina McBride     J.T. Dutton     Shanyn (Chick Loves Lit)
Bottom Row: Carrie Harris     Me     Sara (The Hiding Spot)     Katie (Sophistikatied Reviews)

I seriously had the best time getting to know everyone and talking about our favorite subjects, YA books and writers!

I want to encourage everyone whether you're an avid YA reader, OR YA writer, that you reach out to authors coming to your area for signings. They're not as scary as you might think! And I'm sure that for any writer at a signing, a friendly face makes all the difference. Not to mention, it's always a good time when you get to talk in person with people who understand your love for YA. Get a group of YA lovers together for a book signing and have some fun!

Be sure to check out Kristina and Jen's books (and Carrie's AWESOME cover)!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Reading Outside of Your Chosen Genre

Well-rounded reading makes for well-rounded writing. There, I said it. Yes, it's only my opinion but I'm sticking to it. We all know the importance of reading extensively within the genre you write. For me, that's young adult (YA) and more specifically, urban fantasy and post-apocalyptic YA. If you write YA, you definitely should read a TON of it to get a feel for things like pacing, plot, and characterization. Recent reads for me have included The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson and The Maze Runner by James Dashner (both awesome). Next up: Ender's Game which I've been meaning to read forever.

However, I believe my writing has benefited from reading other types of books as well. My book club primarily reads literary fiction a la The Help and Still Alice (both wonderful), and I'm a sucker for non-fiction that makes me think, such as Freakonomics and The Tipping Point (both amazing).  I learn and pull things from everything I read, which hopefully adds new dimensions to my chosen genre.

What about you? Do you think there are benefits to reading a wide scope of material? What's the last book you read that's NOT what you typically read or write?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Contest Monday

There are some cool contests out there this week! ARCs are in the air this week:

Carolina Valdez Miller is having a contest with some awesome ARCs, including Matched, Firelight, and Torment among others--they all look fabulous! Get the deets here -- contest ends Aug. 8th.

The Well-Read Wife is giving away two amazing grand prize packages (including books by Scott Westerfield and Maggie Stiefvater) as soon as she reaches 500 Twitter followers (last I checked, she was very, very close). Go read about the prizes and follow! Good luck--but I have to tell you that I really, really want to win this one.

21 Pages is having a major giveaway where you can win an ARC of books such as Clockwork Angel, Delirium, and Linger among others, so enter now! Deadline is Aug. 20th.

Candyland is hosting an awesome contest that will also help build a better world here that has some awesome prizes including ARCS, a critique and line edit by our sister Valerie, and a webinar with literary agent Natalie Fischer! Contest Ends July 31st.

Sara McClung is giving away seven awesome ARCs (Firelight, Paranormalcy, The Replacement to name a few) in her Summer Saradise 7 contest! Contest ends August 5th.

As always, feel free to post contests I missed in the comments section below. Happy Monday!!!!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Author Closet

Hope you're all having a great weekend!
Author Charliane Harris, Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood), is cleaning out her closet for the next few days. She's offering up quite a few different editions of her books including some from Finland, Germany, Britain, Sweden, and Japan. She's accepting cashiers check or paypal to cover the cost of the book and the shipping and she's offered to sign and personalize any of the books.

I missed her signing in my home city so I've ordered myself a copy of the True Blood Omnibus! :D

Follow this link to see what she has available and for more info on who to contact:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Put Yourself Out There!

Good morning! Don't you just love Thursday? Today the final top three winners were announced in the line-by-line contest! Congrats, ladies( +me! Yay!)! I've participated in a few contests in the past and whether I've placed in them or not, it's always been a great learning experience. It's fun to read the work of so many people we know from the blogging/writing community. The feedback on not only your work, but their's as well, is priceless.

But with contests, like anything in the writing world, you need to wear thick skin. Sometimes comments can sting, even from complete strangers. As writers we need to keep an open mind and accept criticism. It's the only way to get better. Well, that, a lot of practice and gallons of ice cream.

So long as you can take the negative comments along with the positive, contests are a GREAT morale booster. Even if one person flat out tells you your writing sucks, ten other people will tell you what they like and what you could improve.

I know a lot of people don't enter contests because they're hesitant to have strangers reading their work. After all, anyone could steal it! But I think most writers are good people and 250 words or less isn't enough of a glimpse into your awesome plot--you won't even get to the space monkeys. So go ahead and put yourself out there!
And if not that's okay too.

I may or may not have a follow up post to this in a few weeks. We shall see!
Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Learning to Love What You Write

I’m not like everybody else. I know that. They taught us way back in elementary school that everyone is different, and everyone has value. We learned that we should embrace what’s different in ourselves. Even as an adult, Oprah and the self-help gurus encourage us to love the parts of ourselves we’re inclined to hate - the things you can’t change - because they’re yours, and they make you you.

Most of the time I can do that. I’m a dork. I love sci-fi and British humor. (Hello Doctor Who!) I’m a grown woman who prefers books for teens. I went to a New Kids On The Block concert – last summer. I may have once been spotted dancing around my kitchen to a Justin Bieber song. (Although this is yet to be proven.) I hate chocolate. I’m me.

I write stories that are very me. Things that I want to read and that, for the most part, aren’t like what’s already out there.

But sometimes, when scanning the latest book deals, or beta-reading an awesome ms, I begin to doubt that my book has value. When I see the fourth werewolf trilogy to sell in a month or I look at those blurbs of mindblowing concepts about zombies and space ships and dystopian worlds and retellings set in futuristic locations and sweet quirky romances (all books I want to read) I think, why don’t I write stuff like that? Why don’t those ideas come to me? And then I think, no one will ever want my book when there are so many truly awesome ones out there. And then I put my ms aside and try to come up with my very own Zombie Apocalypse in Space Quirky Romance – with Werewolves. (Which I just came up with this second and am totally doing, so you can take that one off your list!)

It never works. Why? Because I’m trying to come up with someone else’s book. I can’t get passionate about the idea. I don’t feel true to myself.

And so it comes down to this: I can love my books because they're mine and work to make them the very best representation of the mashup between my skills and the crazy things floating around in my head. And then I can trust that if I put my passion into my work, other people will connect with it even if it doesn’t have werewolves in a dystopian spaceship falling in love with quirky girls during the zombie apocalypse. (Seriously, I’m going to write this. Back off.) OR I can sit at my computer, paralyzed by the fear that nothing I come up with will ever be good enough.

I choose to write. What do you choose? What do you do when it seems like everyone’s ideas are way cooler than yours?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Cycle of Writing

I've discovered something about myself after writing my first YA novel this past year. I work really, really hard in the Fall, and um, not as hard in the Summer. It took me 6 weeks in Sept. and Oct. to write my first draft. It might be because I associate that time of year with starting school and buckling down after a summer full of snow cones and swimming. Summer=Fun. Fall=Work.

I'll admit it--this past week, when I should have been writing, I splashed around the pool with my kids and watched my 3-year-old daughter flirt under a fountain with her 7-year-old fiance (long story but she proposed and he didn't say no, so she's laid claim on him as her future husband). When I should have been revising, I took the kids to Toy Story 3 (AMAZING movie by the way--go right now if you haven't seen it!) If there was a choice between going out for ice-cream and reconfiguring Chapter Three, the chocolate milkshake won. Every. Single. Time.

Not that I've been a total slacker. I've written six chapters of a new YA and have revised my 'old' ms for the billionth time--but I've done it at a slower, Summer pace. I feel September creeping up on me and know I'll kick into high gear again soon, which is good, as I'll stop eating my weight in ice cream. But for now, I plan to hold onto August for all it's worth--by balancing writing with soaking up the sun by the pool (someone has to keep an eye on my precocious daughter).

What about you? Any cycles, seasonal or otherwise, that you've noticed with your writing? Am I the only one that has a weakness for warm weather ice-cream consumption?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Contest Monday without Contests

Either I'm really distracted by the fact that my family is in town and my hubby is off this week or else there really aren't any contests going on right now. Can that be? There has to be some book-related contest going on somewhere in the blogosphere that I just don't know about, so if you know about it...share the knowledge and post it in the comments below. I swear I'll find one for you next week, even if I have to make it up myself.  :)

UPDATE: There is a contest!!! Candyland is hosting an awesome contest here that has some awesome prizes including ARCS, a critique and line edit by our sister Valerie, and a webinar with literary agent Natalie Fischer!

Also it's not a contest but Valerie was interviewed over at We Do Write! Read her interview here!

In the meantime here's a fun little link to boost your self-esteem. I Write Like lets you plug in an excerpt from your novel and it shoots out the name of a famous author whom you supposedly write like. Take it with a grain of salt because, like I said, they're all famous. According to their magic formula, I write like Douglas Adams. Did you try it? What author do you write like?

Happy Monday!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Quick Note.

Good morning! I am happy today despite being woken up at 6:45am by jackhammers. Again.
Not a lot to blog about this morning, but I wanted to let everyone know registration for write on con is now open. The conference is totally 100% FREE and open to all MG and YA writers who register. Valerie had a great post with all the into on the conference.

Also, I made it to round 4, the top 10, in the Line-by-line Novel Opening contest over at Adventures in Children's Publishing! There are some seriously awesome first lines over there and I'm honored to be listed among them. Good luck to all who entered!

Shelli, along with literary agent Suzie Townsend of Fine Print Lit, is having a novel pitch contest. The contest is now closed (sorry I didn't post sooner, but I just found out last night) but feel free to hop over to Shelli's blog to read more about Suzie and get a peek at some of the great 140 character pitches!

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Coming Up With Shiny New Ideas

It seems like one of the most common question for any writer is: Where do you get your ideas? (I know I'm in awe of writers like J.K. Rowling and Melissa Marr who create entire worlds!) So I thought I'd share some of the ways I come up with my ideas. Here's the one that works best for me:


Really. One of my all time favorite quotes on writing (which I've probably shared here before) is by Toni Morrison and it says:

If there's a book you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet. Then you must write it.

It's this quote, more than anything that has pushed me into writing the books I'm writing rather than leaving them as scribbles in a notebook.

Sure, I get ideas from dreams, from watching the news, from music, from reading a book and wishing it had turned out differently. Sometimes I get really excited by them and start a notebook (and now that I have the super awesome-tastic Scrivener, a Scrivener file) for fleshing it out. But by and large, the ideas that have stuck with me to become stories are the ones I wanted to write even before I knew what they were.

For instance, my WIP SLEEPER came from an intense desire to read a book where a girl kicked serious butt. I couldn't find one, and I knew that I wanted to write one, but I had no idea what that story was going to be. Would it be Urban Fantasy? Contemporary? Futuristic? Magical? I had no clue. Only the desire to create something that involved butt-kicking action and excitement.

And this is where the sheer force of will comes in. I focused on what I wanted. I ignored other shiny ideas that were perhaps more complete, but not exciting to me. I asked myself questions. Who is this butt-kicking girl? Why is she kicking butt? How does she feel about being so butt-kickingly awesome? Whose butt is she kicking? And finally, as I let those questions marinate in my subconscious, she began to speak to me. And her voice was more clear than any other character I'd created. She told me the story of how she came to kick butt, and how it made her feel and before I knew it I was sitting down at my laptop and spitting out 7500 words all in one sitting! I was scribbling copious notes in my notebook about who she was, who her friends were, where she lived, what she wanted, and a surprisingly complex plot. It was all there.

From the desire to write the story, to knowing my MC and writing those first 7500, it took maybe two weeks. Does it always happen that fast? No. But are the ideas I come up with this way better than the ones that just pop into my head? So far, yes. They're the ones I'm most excited to write. It's weird, since any idea I come up with obviously comes from me. But somehow the ones that I create out of a desire to do something specific feel more powerful. Like I earned them somehow.

So I guess what I'm trying to say here is if you don't have totally brilliant shiny new ideas falling on your head like rain, don't be discouraged. Think about the kind of story you want to tell and focus your energy on that. Ask yourself questions about why you want to tell that kind of story, what you hope to achieve, how you want it to make readers feel. It will come, and it'll probably be your best one yet!

What about you? What tricks do you use to get your ideas to the point you have to write them?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Progress Report

As my blog Sisters have the newest version of my ms this month and are likely shredding making gentle suggestions as I write this, I have a little time on my hands. I set 2 goals for the month and this is how it's going at the midway point:

Goal #1) Twitter. As I mentioned last week, one of my goals was to figure out the whole Twitter thing. After the helpful comments last week (thanks again for those), I made the leap. I created a profile, followed a bunch of cool writing peeps, and read a ton of tweets. Just today, I created my first tweet involving a shortened url. If you knew my technological abilities (or lack thereof), you'd be as proud as I am. Of course, nobody knows how long it took me to figure out that one tweet (Lacey, shhhhhh). Anyway, I'm still figuring things out but it's actually kinda fun. PERSONAL INVITE: Come follow me on Twitter! @KristiHelvig I'll follow you right back. :)

Goal #2) New manuscript.What better time to work on a shiny new idea than when you're twiddling your thumbs waiting for feedback on the finished one. I wrote two new chapters this week, and am hoping for two more before family comes into town for a vacation. I've mentioned before that my favorite thing in the world is writing that first draft, so I'm in heaven right now. I have two more weeks of freedom before I get my other manuscript back and have to get back to the dreaded R word. So for now, I'm just gonna enjoy myself.

What about you? Any goals for the week/month year? Any progress reports you'd like to share? 

Also, be sure to check out my interview my Dorothy over at We Do Write. It's the most fascinating interview EVER. Okay, the most fascinating if you don't include ones by Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling, Cormac McCarthy....never mind. Just read it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Contest Monday

YA author Hannah Moskowitz is giving away an ARC of her very own Invincible Summer. WARNING: The cover makes you feel like you could ingest only pureed carrots for weeks and still look nothing like the model on the front of the book. Contest deadline: July 17th.

Linna over at 21 Pages is having a huge giveaway with possible prizes including ARCs of Linger, Paranormalcy and Firelight. Contest deadline: Aug. 20th.

Feel free to post other contests in the comments below. Happy Monday--now excuse me while I go puree some carrots.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

From Me to You Award!

(This is way over due. Sorry!)

We received the "From me to you" award from Mia at! Thanks, Mia! The rules say that we must list seven truths about ourselves and pass the award to seven other blogs.

Seven Truths About Me: Lacey
1. I love the smell of horses
2. My second toe on my left foot is longer than my big toe
3. I once ate cat food on a dare
4. I think sushi tastes better when eaten with chopsticks
5. I shared ice cream with my dog when I was a kid
6. I won 1st place in a beauty pageant when I was 6 years old (I know, what happened?)
7. The fuzz on peaches makes my teeth itch

Seven Truths About Me: Valerie
1. I don't like chocolate.
2. I can say the alphabet backwards.
3. I drink too much coffee.
4. Lilacs are one of my favorite scents.
5. When I was little I wanted to be a magician.
6. My favorite color is green.
7. I was allergic to cats until I got a kitten.

Seven Truths About Me: Kristi
1. I could subsist entirely on chocolate and Diet Coke.
2. Growing up, I wanted to be either an NFL quarterback or a priest.
3. I love Colorado but really miss living a block from the ocean.
4. I'd rather nap than exercise.
5. I can't watch a movie in the theater without popcorn.
6.I'm allergic to dogs but still let them sleep in bed with me.
7. I think my kids are the most hilarious people I know.

We're giving this award to the following:
Lisa and Laura Roecker
Samantha Bennet
Lisa Green

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Book Recommendation!

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A beautiful, poetic, timeless read. Fans of Suzanne Collins' HUNGER GAMES and Carrie Ryan's FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH will devour this book.

Product Description

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life sheÕs known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

About the Author

Ally Condie received a degree in English Teaching from Brigham Young University and spent a number of years teaching high school English in Utah and in upstate New York. She lives with her husband and three sons outside of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Process of a Book.

This morning I'm browsing the blogosphere and I came across this great post by Author/Agent Mandy Hubbard.

It'f funny and insightful. GO check it out!

Also, Valerie and I have made it to the top 25 in the line-by-line contest over at Adventures and Children's Publishing! There are some super entries over there! Including two from Angela at the Book Shelf Muse! Also check out the entries in the critique section. Good luck to everyone in the contest!
Have a happy Thursday!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Introverts and Social Media

I'll admit it. I was dragged kicking and screaming onto Facebook. I caved to peer pressure after all my friends joined and then my book club (which I started with 3 of my friends) created a FB page. They sent me annoying yet humorous emails saying that I wouldn't know about future meetings unless I joined. So I finally drank the Kool-Aid and....well, I don't hate it as much as I thought I would. Though I rarely post myself, I love commenting on the updates of others and it's a fun way to stay connected with friends and writing colleagues.

Why is this important to writers?

Yes, a writer's main job is to write the best darn book they can. If you don't have that, all the social media connections in the world won't help. But that's not a writer's only job. It's more important than ever to have an online presence and to connect with the world online. This can be through things like blogging, a website, Facebook, Jacketflap and Twitter.

But I'm an introvert....
Yeah, so am I. I actually think social media is perfect for introverts because you don't have to worry about the face-to-face interaction. It's less anxiety provoking. I've read online that you should only do the things you love and I agree BUT if I hadn't pushed myself out of my comfort zone by trying the blog thing, I never would have discovered that I love blogging. LOVE IT. Just remember that GROWTH=BEING UNCOMFORTABLE.

You know what makes me more uncomfortable than anything?
TWITTER. I practice what I preach and set up a Twitter account despite not understanding anything about Tweets, Twitters, or various other T words I'm missing. I even sent out one Tweet that I thought went to my blog Sisters. They informed me that it went out to the whole Tweet-o-sphere. Yeah. I haven't Tweeted since. Is Tweet even supposed to be capitalized? Please, somebody let me know. Also, has anyone written Twitter for Dummies yet, because I will buy a copy from you RIGHT NOW--seriously, email me. I even have several followers despite my lack of Tweets, so I feel kinda lame about that. Anyway, my goal is to at least know enough about Twitter to figure out whether I want to do it or not.

Bottom Line
Publishers expect authors to have some online platform--even if you write fiction. Agents are focusing on your manuscript, but they're also looking at your web presence. The days of brilliant prose written in a dark attic room while leaving the marketing to the publisher are long over. Figure out what you love, or at least what you're good at, or at the very least what you can stomach--and get to it. 

Any social media tips I missed? Anyone love Twitter? I'd love to hear from you.

Speaking of meeting interesting peeps in the virtual writing community, Lisa over at Everyday Intensity is sponsoring the July Intensity Project. It's thought-provoking and enlightening so check it out.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Contest Monday with ARCS!!

Hope everyone is enjoying a long holiday weekend filled with burgers, beer and illegal fireworks!

Cool Contests of the Week:
Awesome agent Bree Ogden of Martin Literary Management is hosting a contest on her blog where the winner receives an ARC of JANE, a contemporary re-telling of the classic Jane Eyre. It looks AMAZING! I have to warn you that Bree's contests involve work, and um, thinking, but it's so worth it -- I won an ARC of THE DUFF in her last contest! Deadline is July 11th.

 The wonderful Bree having a heck of a giveaway on her blog. Click here, watch the cool book trailer and drool over the possible prizes, including multiple ARCS! Deadline is July 14th.

As always, feel free to post your contests in the comments -- HAPPY JULY 4TH and HAPPY MONDAY!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday Book Recommendation!

BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver.
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1 edition (March 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006172680X

Valerie and I had the pleasure of meeting Lauren at Book Expo America.

From Lauren's website:

What if you only had one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all: the world’s most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.

Instead, it turns out to be her last. Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

I'm not finished with this book myself and I'm already recommending it to you. It came highly recommended by Valerie, who did a total fan-girl *squee* when she met Lauren. Shhh! Don't tell her I told you. I have photographic evidence.

You HAVE to read this book! It's a total page-turner.

Visit Lauren's website to learn more abotu the characters, teh book and the author herself.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Robbing Your Readers

It's Thursday already! Wow! I've been super busy with rewrites and reading manuscripts and family stuff. This week just flew by me.

One of my sisters read my manuscript, GREYSKIN, recently and gave me awesome feedback (as always), but one thing really stood out to me as most important: I've been robbing my readers. Well, future, potential readers.

My protagonist, Charlie, is a sixteen-year-old girl. She gets thrust into some pretty heavy stuff and she ends up having to go at it alone. My problem was that I was having other characters relay information to her, and I had way too much awesome stuff happening off screen. I kept thinking, she's a teen, her parents keep this stuff from her to protect her. This is an adult situation, she wouldn't know this stuff. She wouldn't be able to handle it, or discover it for herself.

But I was totally wrong. I was thinking with my mom-head and not my inner teen. Not my inner Charlie. Charlie can totally do this! She can handle that! She would so easily figure that out herself! Now that it's been pointed out to me, it's so blatantly obvious. It's embarrassing, really. Hopefully, I can save you some embarrassment.

My Sister shared this great link on author Janice Hardy's blog: and I wanted to pass it on to you.

Think to yourself: would this scene be better if I dramatized it? If the narrator saw it first hand? is it possible for her to discover this herself instead of through a third party?

If yes, do it! happy re-writing!

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