Monday, February 28, 2011

Contest Monday

I'll start with the shamless self-promo.

Today is the last day to enter my Back From Branson Giveaway Part 1! you have until 11:59pm ET tonight to enter to win one of these three YA books each with signed bookplates!

And today I opened theBack From Branson Giveaway Part 2, where two lucky winners (one GUARNTEED INTERNATIONAL) wins their choice of a pre-order from one of the authors at the retreat! This one ends 3/14.

You get bonus points for following us here at Sisters in Scribe, so be sure to enter!

YA Writer Rachel Alpine is giving away an ARC of DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth! Check out her blog for info. Contest ends 3/6.

Adventures in Children's Publishing is giving away a TON of awesome YA new releases this week! Including LIAR SOCIETY with fun swag, DEMONGLASS, BLOOD & FLOWERS, and 3 copies of THE CHAOS (NUMBERS #2). Find out all the details here.

As always, if you know of any contest happenings around the web, feel free to use our Mr. Linky below!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation!

Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Razorbill (January 11, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595143971
ISBN-13: 978-1595143976

A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder.
Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.


This book really surprised me. I expected great things from Beth Revis, and there was a lot of hype surrounding this book, I had no doubt it would good. It was better than good. I don't read sci-fi. I have never in my life ever felt the desire to pick up a sci-fi novel, or a space opera or anything of the sort, and I expected ATU to fall into one of those categories. Maybe it does, I wouldn't know, but it certainly wasn't what I expected a "sci-fi" novel to be. ATU is a mix of sci-fi and dystopian. It has a great cast of characters, an intriguing plot, and a scary setting that made me want to step outside for a breath of fresh air.

And the cover is beautiful! You can flip it inside out for a map of the ship! I read an interview with Beth Revis and she said she'd pictured the ship from Futurama while she was creating Godspeed, which I found very funny.

Hope you enjoy!

***If you missed this week's Contest Monday post, Valerie is giving away ATU with a signed book plate as part of her Back from Branson Giveaway!***

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sometimes Your Characters Outsmart You

You've all seen those cheap horror films with the busty blonde babysitter, right? You know the one where she hears strange noises in the attic that can only be an evil killer-zombie-ghost with fangs? And she grabs a flashlight, because the electricity suddenly went out, and she climbs the stairs to investigate, armed with nothing but her um...wit.

***I tried to draw a cartoon here, but the girl looked like she had two watermelons stuck in her throat and a spaghetti noodle where an arm might be. I am not an artist.***

It might "work" in those movies, but it doesn't work in your book. Unless that's the kind of story you're writing. In that case, just turn away now.

Your character needs to have brains to make your story interesting and believable. When revising one of my manuscripts, I kept bumping up against this wall, trying to make my MC do something that she really didn't want to do. Something she would never do, because she's witty and clever, and what I was trying to force her into was stupid.

If you're trying to force your MC to put out a fire with a garden hose, instead of calling the fire department, she better have a darn good reason for it. If she doesn't, you might need to try a different approach.

Happy revising!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Filling In The Gaps

I'm discovering lately that I seem to have missed out on the fantasy phase in my youth. (I was big on horror, sci-fi and contemporary as a kid, like Stephen King, Christopher Pike.) There seems to be all these sort of common knowledge things for people who have read a lot of fantasy that I have no idea about and I don't like that. It's like I'm missing a whole layer of experience that could enrich my writing so I've decided I'm going to fix it. Here's what I've come up with so far:

The Dark Is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper
The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner
The Wrinkle In Time Quintet by Madeline L'Engle (already read A Wrinkle In Time)
Terrier by Tamora Pierce
The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix

I would love some high/alternate world fantasy recs! I've heard good things about Diana Wynne Jones, Shannon Hale, as well as Robin McKinley and Tamora Pierce's other books but they have so many that I have no idea which book to choose. I'm especially attracted to stories based in mythology or folklore, and I love anything with magic, but I'll read anything that's well-written! That includes Middle Grade.

Note: I've already read The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Graceling, and Fire is in my TBR pile, I'm up to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in the Narnia chronicles. So please, rec away!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Doing My Part for Borders

As my family and friends already know, I'm a huge nerd. How huge? My date nights with my hubby (luckily, also a nerd) involve dinner at our fave restaurant, followed by several hours in...Borders. I was devastated to hear about the bankruptcy of Borders, even though I'd all heard it was coming. Although I'm a big believer in supporting independent bookstores, Borders is the closest one to my house, and those of you with small children know that you often have to take the easiest route. Plus, my kids LOVE the kids' section at Borders. We had to do an errand at the mall today, and my kids got really excited, which is not their typical reaction when I announce errands. They asked, "Can we go to Borders?" Being the great mom that I am, I responded, "Why, yes. Yes we can!"

Luckily, the one by my house is not one of the multiple stores closing in Colorado. I'd like to think it's partly because of me--my holiday shopping there alone should keep them in the black for awhile. After my 3-yo picked out a Tangled book and my 6-yo chose the newest Geronimo Stilton adventure, I left them in the capable hands of my hubby and meandered to the YA section--my favorite! So what did I add to my never-ending TBR pile?

NEED by Carrie Jones...

...and Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder.

There were so many other pretty covers calling out to me, but that's okay. I'll be back.

Have you purchased any books recently? Anyone else feel like bookstores are a little slice of heaven?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Contest Monday Featuring Mooseworthy Reads!

Our Scribe Sister, Valerie Kemp, is hosting a fabulous book giveaway as part of her Back from Branson giveaway! Up for grabs are books from a few of the authors that attended the Branson retreat: LINGER by Maggie Stiefvater, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis, and THE REPLACEMENT by Brenna Yovanoff, all with signed book plates! Ends Feb 28th!

Writer's Digest is taking entries to their writing contest. Grand prize is $3k and a trip to the WD conference in NYC! Lots of other great prizes there as well. Visit the WD website for details. Deadline for entries is May 2nd, late deadline is May 20th. This one does require an entry fee.

As always, if you know of any contest happenings around the web, feel free to use our Mr. Linky below!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation--UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld

Happy Friday! My pick for this week is UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld:

Playing on every teen’s passionate desire to look as good as everybody else, Scott Westerfeld (Midnighters) projects a future world in which a compulsory operation at sixteen wipes out physical differences and makes everyone pretty by conforming to an ideal standard of beauty. The "New Pretties" are then free to play and party, while the younger "Uglies" look on enviously and spend the time before their own transformations in plotting mischievous tricks against their elders. 

Tally Youngblood is one of the most daring of the Uglies, and her imaginative tricks have gotten her in trouble with the menacing department of Special Circumstances. She has yearned to be pretty, but since her best friend Shay ran away to the rumored rebel settlement of recalcitrant Uglies called The Smoke, Tally has been troubled. The authorities give her an impossible choice: either she follows Shay’s cryptic directions to The Smoke with the purpose of betraying the rebels, or she will never be allowed to become pretty. Hoping to rescue Shay, Tally sets off on the dangerous journey as a spy. But after finally reaching The Smoke she has a change of heart when her new lover David reveals to her the sinister secret behind becoming pretty. The fast-moving story is enlivened by many action sequences in the style of videogames, using intriguing inventions like hoverboards that use the rider’s skateboard skills to skim through the air, and bungee jackets that make wild downward plunges survivable -- and fun. Behind all the commotion is the disturbing vision of our own society -- the Rusties -- visible only in rusting ruins after a virus destroyed all petroleum. Teens will be entranced, and the cliffhanger ending will leave them gasping for the sequel. (Ages 12 and up) --Patty Campbell

Kristi's take:  I knew I was going to love this book from the first line: "The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit." I'll keep this short--if you love dystopian, you'll love this book. I can't wait to read the rest in this series. Has anyone read the rest? Are they as good as the first?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Reading to Escape

Did you ever get into that mode when you're writing where that annoying little voice starts to tell you that this is silly, that these characters aren't real? And it really puts a cramp in your creativity because how can you possibly care about these people if you just know they aren't real and they don't matter?


Just me then? Okay. When this happens, the best thing for me to do is put down the document and walk away, right into the open arms of somebody else's fictional characters. When I start to read, especially if I've met this author or I know anything about her/him, that same thought nags me--she created these people. They're not real. But as I keep reading, I'm inevitably pulled into their story. They feel real. They do matter. And I care about what happens to them.

The same can be said about my own characters, your own characters. Someone is going to love them and care about them almost as much as you do. Face it, you love them. They're real to you in some way. Sometimes all it takes it a little reminder. A little remembering what it feels like to be a reader, and to escape in the written reality that some amazing writer has created for you.

That's all I can say today because I miss Amy and Elder and I have to know what happens to them.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Reading To Write

Lately I've been feeling sort of stymied. The creativity just hasn't been flowing in my re-writes. Not to mention it's getting to the point where I need to start thinking seriously about what I'm going to write next. I have a few promising ideas, but no real inspiration to flesh them out.

As I've been laying around sick these last few days, unable to stare at my computer screen for more than a few minutes thanks to the sinus pressure, it finally hit me. I haven't been reading!

I've been spending so much time revising and thinking about revising and nitpicking sentences that I haven't read just for fun. And I need it. That's when I feel the most inspired, when I'm surrounded by exciting, interesting, absorbing stories. So yesterday, when actual reading was an impossibility, I started listening to an audiobook, and already I feel revived.

(Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, read by Jennifer Ehle who is awesome at the multitude of voices and British accents in the book.)

So what about you? Do you read when you write? I can't read fiction that is similar in topic to what I'm writing but I like to read things that are similar in tone.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What Are You Reading Now?

I stayed up way too late last night in order to finishing my judging duties for a regional writing contest. I'll give some input into the process in my post next week, but thought I'd do a quick poll for today. It's that time for me again...I'm almost finished my book club book and need a new read. I took your prior recommendations to heart and finished Nightshade,  Paranormalcy, and The Sky is Everywhere. Since you clearly give great recommendations, I'm asking for help again. What are you reading this week?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation--Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Happy Friday! I guess I'm on a male protagonist kick lately, as my last two picks were The Maze Runner by James Dashner and The Giver by Lois Lowry. I'll continue the streak with a strong recommendation for Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card:

Summary from Goodreads:
In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race's next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn't make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender's skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender's two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.

Kristi's take: If someone told me (before I read this) that I'd like a book centered around military tactics and war, I'd have said they were crazy. But I loved this book, because the book isn't just about war, it's about Ender Wiggin. His character felt so real and heart-breaking to me, and his connection (or lack thereof) to the humanity (or lack thereof) around him had me rooting for him in every battle. Also, I love it when I'm thrown by an ending and this book did that to me. This book was also one that I thought about long after I put it down. Has anyone else read this? What did you think? 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Blast from the Past: Got Micro-Tension?

I am knee-deep in revisions and plotting out a new novel that won't leave me alone, so I've been going back through some old posts here on SIS. This one was originally posted by Kristi in May 2010. In case you missed it then, and you're in revision hell with me, I'm revisiting it for you!


I was lucky enough to attend a workshop with Donald Maass on the importance of having micro-tension in your manuscript. Just as the term suggests, this doesn't refer to the over-arching conflict or obstacle facing your main character (which you could think of as macro-tension). Micro-tension is the tension that keeps readers turning each page in that "Oh, I'll read just one more chapter before bed...oh my god, it's 3am" kind of way. It's "line by line" tension. Do you have enough micro-tension in your story? Is there some sort of conflict on every page of your novel. Every. Single. Page. Mr. Maass discussed 3 main components of micro-tension:

1) Dialogue - every interaction between two characters should involve some sort of tension. This doesn't need to be overly dramatic, such as a fight. It can be subtle and implied, but it should still be there (think Hills Like White Elephants). 
2) Exposition - this is a great place to show the contradiction (conflict) between what a character is feeling/thinking and what they're doing (their actual behavior).
3) Action - while this might be the easiest place in theory to create micro-tension, you still need to make sure you have conflicting emotions in order to keep readers turning the page.

A great idea from Donald Maass: Print out your full manuscript and throw it in the air. Yeah, this might give overly organized peeps (like me) a heart attack but it's still great advice. Pick up a page at random and see if there is micro-tension on the page. Then pick up another page, etc. until you've picked up Every. Single. Page. If there's a page without micro-tension - fix it. His reason for doing it that way is that when writers read their manuscript in chronological order, they tend to over-estimate the tension on a given page. It's easier to be objective when picking a random page off the floor.

Any other tips out there on ensuring you have micro-tension on every page? Now get out there and throw those manuscripts!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why Retreats Rock

So, if you've been wondering where I've been the last week, I've been Branson for the AWESOMEST WRITING RETREAT EVER. I don't say this to gloat or make you feel bad, but to encourage you to get together with your writer friends for a few days and just hang, because it is amazing.

Writing retreats are awesome, not because of the inside jokes you come away with, but because you get to spend time with people who get you. People who don't think it's strange that the first thing you do in the morning is turn on the coffee pot and the computer, rather than shower. People who don't judge you when it's 5pm and you're still in your pajamas. People who aren't afraid when you talk about the voices in your head. It really doesn't get better than that.

I honestly can't explain how awesome it is to sit down to write and hear nothing but the soft click of fingers on the keyboard and see this:

(Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, Brenna Yovanoff)

(Kiersten White - below Freddy The Moose - not pictured)

(Victoria Schwab, Sarah Darer Littman, Julia Karr, Jessica Spotswood)

Not only is it inspiring, but it's demystifying. NYT Bestselling authors sit down with their laptops and write, just like me. There's no magic, just hard work.

If there's any wisdom I can offer from my time here in Branson, it's that writers need time with other writers. It doesn't have to be far away at a lodge, or for a week, with 22 other writers. It can be a weekend in your backyard, the results will be the same -- a feeling of kinship that we miss sometimes when we're on the other side of computer monitors.

So go make your own retreat, or mini-retreat, or weekly sit down with another writer. It's so worth it! (And if you can get Maggie Stiefvater to come and bake you cookies from scratch, all the better!)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Contest Monday featuring the Dark Side

Happy Monday to all! It's a bittersweet Monday for me, because football season is over, but what a game to finish the season (GO PACKERS!) As always, we have some great contests this week:

Victoria Schwab author of the debut YA urban/green fantasy novel THE NEAR WITCH is giving away a signed ARC of THE NEAR WITCH, as well as a finished copy of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis (with a signed bookplate) and MUCH more! Check it out here. Contest ends February 9th.

A Life Bound By Books, The Bookologist, Kid Lit Frenzy, and The Undercover Booklover are giving away a KINDLE! If you read my post last week, you know I debated whether or not to include this contest, but I'm in a good mood tonight--you can thank the Green Bay Packers. It's actually an amazing giveaway for those of you looking to convert to the dark side. Deadline is 3/4/11. 

Give some link love below if you have a contest you'd like to announce: 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation

Today's recommendation is THE MOCKINGBIRDS by Daisy Whitney

Summary: Some schools have honor codes.
Others have handbooks.
Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.

Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way--the Themis Way. So when Alex is date raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds--a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow peers.

In this honest, page-turning account of a teen girl's struggle to stand up for herself, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that if you love something or someone--especially yourself--you fight for it.

Why I chose this book: I really can't say enough good things about THE MOCKINGBIRDS it's painful, honest, and ultimately uplifting. But not in a cheesy or over the top way. It's raw, and brutal. But not in an exploitative way. It's encouraging and brave and it's the one book I wish had been given to me when I was seventeen. I think this book is SO IMPORTANT. It needs to get into the hands of every teen, boy and girl. So, yeah. I love this book. You should read it.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

More Contests!

It was my week to do the contest Monday post and after I posted I discovered a few awesome contests since then that I though should be mentioned. So here they are.

Shelli Johannes of Market My Words is having a Pay It Forward contest! One lucky winner will get a personal recommendation to her awesome agent Alyssa Henkin at Trident Media Group. (Alyssa focuses on children's books and reps many great YA writers.) Seriously, you don't want to miss this!
Contest info is HERE and ends this Friday, February 4th.

The Merry Sisters of Fate are giving away an ARC of BLOOD MAGIC by Tessa Gratton this week! This is the very first ARC of BLOOD MAGIC to be given away! Find out how to enter here. Contest ends February 4th.

Victoria Schwab author of the debut YA urban/green fantasy novel THE NEAR WITCH is giving away a signed ARC of THE NEAR WITCH, as well as a finished copy of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis (with a signed bookplate) and MUCH more! Check it out here. Contest ends February 9th.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sleeping with the Enemy

I've been married for almost 15 years to an adjectives-can't-describe-how-wonderful-he-is man. And then, last week, he drops a bombshell. This wouldn't be a big deal to most people, but I'm not a normal person (my hubby would have a field day with that statement). You see, he knows how much I love books: the weight of them in my hands, their come-hither covers that beckon from across a crowded bookstore, the smell of their delicious pages. I have overflowing bookcases all over my house attesting to this obsession. Yet my dear hubby announces that when the new version of "this thing" comes out in April, he's getting it:
He says the iPad2 will allow him more freedom to read "on the go." The stench of betrayal is strong in the house right now.

I'll admit that I'm part of a dying breed, and that I might be an eighty-year-old woman trapped in a thirty-something's body, but my hubby knew that when he married me (e.g. he informed me that I'm the only person under eighty who reads Reader's Digest.) Sadly, my hubby isn't the only source of betrayal. I can include my sister and most of my book club among the ship jumpers. No one in my book club had an e-reader several years ago. Now, 8 of the 11 women swear by their Kindles, Nooks, and other artificial books, and one of the three hold-outs is looking into getting one. Only one other woman in the group wants nothing to do with them because she loves her old-school books as much as I do *winks at Christy.*. 

The only upshot to all this is that since my hubby and I are both psychologists, we can do the marital therapy on our own...because we clearly need it.

How many of you out there have converted to the dark side? Any other old-fashioned books lovers out there? Am I really the only person under 80 who reads Reader's Digest?
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