Friday, December 31, 2010

The Final Friday Book Recommendation of 2010!

We wish you all a safe and happy New Year! There were a great many amazing YA reads published in 2010, and we've made a short list (in no particular order) of some of our favorites for this Book Recommendation! 

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan

White Cat by Holly Black

Matched by Ally Condie

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

The Secret Year by Jennifer R Hubbard

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea Campbell

Split by Swati Avashti

Freefall by Mindi Scott


What were some of your favorite 2010 reads?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Inspiring Thoughts for the New Year

So we're technically on hiatus this week, but I just read an AWESOME post on writing from the equally AWESOME Courtney Summers (author of Cracked Up To Be and Some Girls Are two of my favorite reads of 2009 and 2010 respectively, and Fall For Anything, new this month!) and I wanted to share.

So go check out what Courtney has to say about How To Deal With Writing For Publication it's got something for everyone, on every part of the publication journey.

And then, if you haven't yet, go check out her books!

Also, don't forget to enter our contest! Last day to enter is December 31st!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Friday Book Recommendation--The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Imagine waking up one day in total darkness, unsure of where you are and unable to remember anything about yourself except your first name. You're in a bizarre place devoid of adults called the Glade. The Glade is an enclosed structure with a jail, a graveyard, a slaughterhouse, living quarters, and gardens. And no way out. Outside the Glade is the Maze, and every day some of the kids -- the Runners -- venture into the labyrinth, trying to map the ever-changing pattern of walls in an attempt to find an exit from this hellish place. So far, no one has figured it out. And not all of the Runners return from their daily exertions, victims of the maniacal Grievers, part animal, part mechanical killing machines.

Thomas is the newest arrival to the Glade in this Truman-meets-Lord of the Flies tale. A motley crew of half a dozen kids is all he has to guide him in this strange world. As soon as he arrives, unusual things begin to happen, and the others grow suspicious of him. Though the Maze seems somehow familiar to Thomas, he's unable to make sense of the place, despite his extraordinary abilities as a Runner. What is this place, and does Thomas hold the key to finding a way out?

Kristi's take: I couldn't put this book down. The maze was intriguing, the characters were compelling, and the Grievers were, well, horrifying. My 12-year-old nephew saw I was reading it and flipped out. He said "everyone" at his school is reading it, and that he's dying to read it too. I'm glad I knew ahead of time that it was the first book of a trilogy, because I wanted to keep reading after the end. The Maze Runner is the autographed book I'm giving away for our December contest, so don't forget to enter here

Has anyone read The Scorch Trials (Book #2) yet? That one is next on my list. 

For those who celebrate Christmas, have a fabulous Christmas Eve and a very merry Christmas! 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Contest Monday

The Sisters and I are taking a short break this week to make time for family (and food), but we're still accepting entries to our December Giveaway! And as always, if you have a contest, or you know of any contests on the web, feel free to share with our Mr. Linky. Whatever you put in the NAME box is what will show up.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Book Recommendation!

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (September 7, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316035920
ISBN-13: 978-0316035927

Nastasya has spent the last century living as a spoiled, drugged-out party girl. She feels nothing and cares for no one. But when she witnesses her best friend, a Dark Immortal, torture a human, she realizes something's got to change. She seeks refuge at a rehab for wayward immortals, where she meets the gorgeous, undeniably sexy Reyn, who seems inexplicably linked to her past.
Nastasya finally begins to deal with life, and even feels safe--until the night she learns that someone wants her dead.


This is the first book in a new trilogy by Cate Tiernan. It's the first book I've read by this author. Nastasya relives a lot of her past while coping with the present and it's almost like reading two books perfectly blended in one. There were some parts of the book I felt were a little predictable, but that didn't stop me from loving it!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Blast From The Past: Telling When You Think You're Showing

This post was originally posted by Valerie a few months back and it has remained one of my favorites. I've come back to it time and time again when revising and it's always helped me to spot those problem sentences.

Also, happy birthday to our beloved Jane Austen. "The most unlearned and uninformed female who ever dared to be an authoress."


You've heard it time and time again, SHOW, DON'T TELL. If you have crit partners you've probably gone cross-eyed from reading it in your ms at one time or another. But you're past that now. You've worked hard on your prose, you're showing all over the place. Or are you?

Using internal physical reactions is a quick way to show a character's emotions. You've seen sentences like these:

My heart raced with fear.
Nervousness twisted her stomach.

These sentences seem, on the surface, that they're showing but in reality, they're telling. Why? Because it tells us what emotion the character is feeling. Fear, in the first sentence, and Nervousness in the second. Chances are, if the physical reaction is appropriate to the scene, that the naming of the emotion is simply excess information. This is sometimes called tagging your emotions and it's usually unnecessary.

In this case, that extra info creates a distance between the reader and the character. In a tense or emotional situation, the reader should be right there with the character, experiencing and connecting to everything the character feels. When something happens that causes your character's heart to pound your reader feels it, when you add in "with fear" you push your reader back a step because they're forced to process an external observation.

Think about it. When you're in the middle of a scary situation, you might notice your heart is pounding but do you actually think - hey my heart is pounding because I'm afraid? No. You just feel afraid.

I work with the rule of thumb that unless a character is experiencing an emotion that is unexpected (like, rather than fear, a character's heart pounds with excitement at being chased by an axe murderer) there's no need to name it. If you've done a good job at creating your character and revealing what makes them them to the reader, they will know what your character is feeling. And even more than that, they will feel a part of that character's experience.

Trust your reader! You don't have to explain everything to them.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Blast From The Past: The Seductive Em Dash

We're re-running some of our favorite blog posts this holiday season, and this is one of my all time favorites from Kristi. I've read this several times, but I still can't get over my em dash abuse. Hopefully, you'll have more luck!

My name is Kristi and I have an addiction. Technically, I have several if you count chocolate and coffee, but in terms of writer-ly things, I have a small problem with em dashes. One of my critique partners called me out on the em dash addiction, and I went through my manuscript and removed a TON of those puppies. The problem is--they're so much fun. All you have to do is type two hyphens into Microsoft Word and the em dash appears--it's like magic. (Unlike Blogger, which is apparently not magic and won't let me transfer the formatted em dashes into this text)

Here's when it IS acceptable to use the em dash:

1) To indicate an abrupt change in thought. This can also include a parenthetical statement that needs to be set apart. The em dash is used here when you need more 'oomph' than a regular ole comma.
(e.g. One of the best ways to determine which em dashes to remove is--did somebody say chocolate?)
2) To indicate that a sentence is unfinished because the speaker has been interrupted.
(e.g. "If you think I'm just going to stand here, while you point that Taser at me--")

That's pretty much it. Me? My motto has been "Why use a comma when you can have the excitement of an em dash instead?" I haven't deleted all of them, but there was a serious em dash massacre in my house last week.

What about you? Anyone else have em dash love? Any other writing-related addictions you'd care to admit?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Blast From The Past: The Art of Pacing

One of the many great sessions I attended at the 2010 Pikes Peak Writers Conference involved the concept of pacing in your novel.  Pacing doesn't need to be consistently fast, but it means there should be an overall smooth flow to your story. This often means that it's faster in some parts, slower in others, but always moving forward, like a river. It never stops.

Kelley Armstrong, the impressive #1 NYT bestselling author of the Darkest Powers YA trilogy, gave  some quick tips for checking the pacing of your story:
  • Active scenes should far outweigh passive scenes, and you shouldn't have too many passive scenes in a row.
  • Even passive scenes should be accomplishing something and moving the story forward (e.g. not going on and on about the 'colorful wildflowers dotting the meadow' because I really don't care--unless an intergalactic ship filled with space monkeys is landing on them. Then I care.)
  • 'Just do it.' In general, don't have your characters plotting to do something or analyzing how they're going to do something (unless there is inherent conflict in their plotting/analyzing). Just have them do it. 
  • 'Go in late, get out early.' If you find you don't have enough tension throughout a scene, it's sometimes because you started the scene too early and let it drag on too long. Start it later; end it earlier.
  • 'Taking care of business' can usually be left out of your manuscript. This often involves a character getting from Point A to Point B. (e.g. 'Bob put his key in the ignition and started the engine, then strapped on his seatbelt, checked his rearview window and pulled out into traffic to head toward the crime scene.' *yawn* You could just say that 'Bob arrived at the crime scene to find it splattered with Jello and spray starch,' and the reader can infer the basic mechanics of how he got there.
  • Dragging dialogue slows down your pacing. As a rule, you shouldn't have more than two pages of dialogue as that can slow down the pacing even more than narrative can -- this is when you end up with 'talking heads.' 
  • Don't re-hash events in your dialogue that the reader just read about.  (e.g., Bob sighed, "Mary Jo, did I tell you about the horrible day I had at school today?" Reader of book: Um, you told me in Chapter Six -- and I really don't want to hear it again.)
  • Be careful with your technical details. You want to ensure that your details are correct but don't overdo it just to show people how much research you did. A little Google goes a long way.
  • Too many flashbacks slow the pacing. Same with backstory, introspection, and narrative description. Use them sparingly.
  • Don't end your chapters after something has already happened; end them when something is about to happen. This makes the reader want to turn the page.
To sum up the gist of all these tips, when Elmore Leonard was asked how he keeps readers turning the pages, he said, "I don't write the parts that people skip." 

Follow that little rule, and your pacing will be golden. Good luck! Any pacing tips that I missed?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Contest Monday

It's Monday--do you have all your holiday gifts wrapped and shipped? I don't. I'm wrapping-challenged, so it takes me forever to do, yet still looks like my children did the wrapping. Therefore, I present this very brief Contest Monday post:
Don't forget to enter our holiday contest here at SIS for your chance to win one of 3 signed books by some uber-awesome authors (James Dashner, Cinda Williams Chima and Lisa McMann)! Good luck...and Happy Monday!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Book Recommendation!

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen (August 31, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061985848
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061985843

Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.

But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.


This book is a fresh take on paranormal. Evie is a fun character and the paranormal characters are unique and interesting, without going too far off the beaten path. I loved the faeries in this book (Reth! *swoon*)! And trying to figure out the mysteries woven in the story was a lot of fun. Definitely a book to read for all the paranormal lovers out there.

And don't forget to enter our December giveaway!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Rules to Remember

We're reusing older posts here at SIS this month, and this week I'd like to re-share a few simple tips to remember when writing.

When writing fiction:

  • Every scene needs to move the plot forward, needs to accomplish something
  • Every
    page needs tension
  • Don't be passive! Make things happen to your main character, not through a third party
  • Ask yourself if this could be dramatized
  • "Substitute the word 'damn' every time you are inclined to write 'very'; your editor will delete it and your writing will be as it should." - Mark Twain
  • "The road to hell is paved with adverbs." - Stephen King
  • When writing an action scene, don't slow it down with descriptions
These are just a few things I keep in mind when writing, most of them have been drilled into my head by my lovely Sisters. I'm sure there's more, but these are probably my most important. I try to keep them in mind with every line I write.

Do you have any little rules you try to write by?When writing fiction:
And don't forget to enter our December giveaway for 3 autographed YA books! 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tis the Season break from blogging. Between my fence-jumping new foster dog and the holidays, I'm more overwhelmed than I've been in a long, long time. The dog is much like my 3-yo daughter...sweet and adorable, but highly mischievous.

We Sisters are going to be giving you some oldies but goodies in terms of past blog posts for December. Also, don't forget to enter our December giveaway where you can win signed copies of some awesome books! So...Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza and Happy Any Other Holiday You Celebrate. May you have a wonderful, peaceful time with family and friends, and we'll see you all in 2011! 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Contest Monday With a Holiday Giveaway!

It's December. The very best time to snuggle up by the fire with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate. We know this is a busy time of year for most, it's insane for all of us too, but have no fear! We'll be re-posting some of our favorite posts from the past, and in the spirit of giving, we're giving away three signed books to three winners! International, & ends Dec. 31st.

Kristi is giving one winner a signed hard copy of THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner.

THE MAZE RUNNER Trilogy Book #1
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

Valerie is giving one winner a signed hard copy of THE DEMON KING by Cinda Williams Chima.

THE DEMON KING A Seven Realms novel
Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for himself, his mother, and his sister Mari.  Ironically, the only thing of value he has is something he can’t sell.  For as long as Han can remember, he’s worn thick silver cuffs engraved with runes.  They’re clearly magicked—as he grows, they grow, and he’s never been able to get them off.  

While out hunting one day, Han and his Clan friend, Dancer catch three young wizards setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea.   After a confrontation, Han takes an amulet from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to ensure the boy won't use it against them.  Han soon learns that the amulet has an evil history—it once belonged to the Demon King, the wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago.  With a magical piece that powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back.  

Meanwhile, Raisa ana’Marianna, Princess Heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight.  She’s just returned to court after three years of relative freedom with her father’s family at Demonai camp – riding, hunting, and working the famous Clan markets.  Although Raisa will become eligible for marriage after her sixteenth name-day, she isn't looking forward to trading in her common sense and new skills for etiquette tutors and stuffy parties.  

Raisa wants to be more than an ornament in a glittering cage. She aspires to be like Hanalea—the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But it seems like her mother has other plans for her--plans that include a suitor who goes against everything the Queendom stands for. 

Lacey is giving one winner a signed paperback copy of WAKE by Lisa McMann.

WAKE Wake Series Book 1
Not all dreams are sweet.
For seventeen-year-old Janie, getting sucked into other people's dreams is getting old. Especially the falling dreams, the naked-but-nobody- notices dreams, and the sex-crazed dreams. Janie's seen enough fantasy booty to last her a lifetime.

She can't tell anybody about what she does -- they'd never believe her, or worse, they'd think she's a freak. So Janie lives on the fringe, cursed with an ability she doesn't want and can't control.

Then she falls into a gruesome nightmare, one that chills her to the bone. For the first time, Janie is more than a witness to someone else's twisted psyche. She is a participant....

Deadline for entry is midnight Friday, December 31st 2010! Winners will be announced Monday, January 3rd. Contest is international.

To enter, fill out the embedded form below. You must be a blog follower. For +3 extra entries, subscribe by email (box on the left). +2 more if you leave a comment on any one of our posts. And a +1 for every social networking site you use to spread the word (we'll accept Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and your blog sidebar). Spread the word as many times as you like! But you'll only get one entry for each. If you tweet the contest ten times, we will be happy and give you e-hugs, but it won't count for extra entries.

Specify which book you'd like to win most, then your second and third choices. We'll try to get the right book to you. Please include links in the form where you spread the word or commented so that we can verify winners.

Good luck! Thank you all, and happy holidays from all of us!

Other contests and giveaways from around the web include:

Shannon Messenger is giving away one hard copy of ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS at her blog! Ends December 10th.

CA Marshall is giving away a full manuscript crit, up to 100k words, at her blog! Ends midnight, Dec. 10th!

And if you know of any contests or giveaways you'd like to share, feel free to use our Mr. Linky and tell us about it!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Book Recommendation - STOLEN

It's Friday and that means it's time for a book recommendation! My choice this week is:

STOLEN by Lucy Christopher

Gemma, 16, is on layover at Bangkok Airport, en route with her parents to a vacation in Vietnam. She steps away for just a second, to get a cup of coffee. Ty--rugged, tan, too old, oddly familiar--pays for Gemma's drink. And drugs it. They talk. Their hands touch. And before Gemma knows what's happening, Ty takes her. Steals her away. The unknowing object of a long obsession, Gemma has been kidnapped by her stalker and brought to the desolate Australian Outback. STOLEN is her gripping story of survival, of how she has to come to terms with her living nightmare--or die trying to fight it.

WHY I RECOMMEND IT: I read this book a year ago and it quickly became one of my favorite books ever. I still can't get it out of my mind. This book is beautiful, haunting, harrowing, vivid, heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful. Gemma's story will stick with you long after you finish. I've never been to Austrailia but I feel like I know the outback and it's harsh, searing heat. I would love to spend time with Lucy Christopher picking her brain and finding out how she came up with this amazing story. STOLEN is now available in the US and I can't recommend it enough! (Seriously, I've given it away twice on my blog already!)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Books on Writing

I'm knee deep in revisions, so I thought I'd pick up a couple of books on writing this week, and both of them (so far) are excellent. I believe Valerie may have recommended one of them once before, but here they are.

Stephen King's On Writing
Part memoir, part cheerleader. Not so much a how-to book on writing, but more of an empowering and entertaining read from one of America's most beloved writers.

Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell
This is the first book in this series that I've read. So far I'm really enjoying it. Some of the steps in this book might seem like a no-brainer to you, but some of us need it spelled out. If you're part of the former, it never hurts to have a good reminder.

There are a lot of great examples in here on scene structure, building suspense in dialog, creating a bond with your reader via your main character, character arc, plotting, revising, etc. There are different activities you can try out on your own to see what works and why.

I've been told this is a great series to go with and so far, I'd have to agree.

I'd like to hear your recommendations. Read any great books on writing recently? Something we haven't covered in past posts? Have you read either of these two books?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sometimes Things Just Suck

It's only Tuesday and it's already been a week full of tragic computer meltdowns, hours of stress and fear, and lots of money I'd rather not spend being spent. (Not to mention a week full of writing goals not being met.) So today I present you with yet another chestnut from The Universe, whose perfect timing helped me make it through yesterday.

"There are only miracles, and to one degree or another they all soothe, pamper, and enrich. However, to avoid blowing too many minds at once, some are disguised as unpleasant surprises, botched circumstances, and twisted acquaintances that can rarely be seen for who or what they truly are until the pendulum has fully swung."

I hope any of you out there having a bad week find this one helpful too! (Also, can you believe it's December already?!?)
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