Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Holidays!!

My kids are home for winter break, and we've been having a great time. We've visited museums, gone ice skating, baked cinnamon rolls, banana bread, and cookies, and worked on a 2000 piece puzzle. Busy busy!! :) Of course, that also means I haven't gotten any work done, but that's okay. :) We're having a great time.


So I wanted to wish you all well this holiday season, and I hope you're having as much fun as I am. :) See you in the new year!!


Monday, December 19, 2011

Interview with Karen Amanda Hooper

Today, I've got the fabulous Karen Amanda Hooper telling us all about her debut novel, Tangled Tides, which was released last month. This is just one stop in her blog tour.

Congratulations, Karen!! Tell us about your book.
Tangled Tides is an older YA fantasy novel about a girl who is turned into a mermaid and discovers she is the only soul who can save a world of sea creatures who are trapped in our Earth realm. It's full of magics, secrets, and romance.

What was the inspiration behind your idea?
The inspiration came from my love of mermaids which started when I was a toddler. Also, my lover for the ocean and my wild imagination about what might be going on beneath the surface.

How long did it take to get from the initial idea to a completed novel?
I wrote my first draft in about 5-6 months, and then I edited and revised for another 2-3 months. My critique partners always give such amazing feedback, and they helped make it a lot stronger.

How often do you write, and how much do you write in one sitting?
It varies for a million reasons. I'm bad with rules (as you can tell from my story being told from 3 different 1st person POVs) so I don't have a strict writing schedule. When I'm first starting a story I usually only write for an hour or two at a time, but once I get going on a manuscript my creative process becomes a little obsessive and I can write for hours on end.

Do you work on one project at a time, or multiple?
I focus on one at a time, but I play around with other ideas, or make notes for my future projects. I have random scenes written from three other story ideas, and I wish I could have all of them completed by yesterday, but as all writers know, telling a good story takes time.

Are you a planner, or do you write by the seat of your pants?
Seat of my pants all the way. I started an outline once and that same day I got the flu. I'm convinced the two were connected, so I'm not willing to attempt another outline because being sick drains my creativity.

Are you a paper person, or the computer-only-type?
I make notes on paper, and I might jot down a few lines or a scene here and there, but mostly I work on my laptop.

What does your writing space look like?
Ha. It's a small laptop desk that sits on my lap. While writing, I'm usually on my couch with my dogs napping on either side of me.

How much do you read, and what are you reading now?
I try to read one book a week, but if I'm super busy with my own project, or critiquing for writing partners, then sometimes I don't meet my goal. I just started CLOCKWISE by Elle Strauss and I'm loving it so far.

What are you working on now?
Book 2 of The Sea Monster Memoirs. And I'm thinking about submitting my other YA reincarnation based manuscript, but I'll probably go through it and revise it one more time before I do.

Congratulations on your book's release! And thanks so much for including Writer Musings in your tour so we can share in your success. :)
Thank you, and thanks so much for having me, Tabitha! :)

To see more of what Karen is up to, check out her website and her blog.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer

When Calla Tor wakes up in the lair of the Searchers, her sworn enemies, she's certain her days are numbered. But then the Searchers make her an offer, one that gives her the chance to destroy her former masters and save the pack and the man she left behind. Is Ren worth the price of her freedom? And will Shay stand by her side no matter what? Now in control of her own destiny, Calla must decide which battles are worth fighting and how many trials true love can endure and still survive.
I enjoyed Nightshade, for the most part. I had some issues with the characters, but the plot and the pacing were exciting enough to keep me interested and hope the characters would sort themselves out in the next book, Wolfsbane.

Well, not so much. My biggest issue with Calla in Nightshade was that she didn’t act like an alpha. She said she was, a lot, but her actions never matched those statements. The same thing happens in Wolfsbane, except she says it a whole lot more. It got tiresome after the first few chapters. Shay was the same forceful, arrogant, and closed-minded person that he was in Nightshade, amped up a few notches. I absolutely hated him by the end of Wolfsbane because he embodies everything a boyfriend should NOT be, especially at the end of the book. I was really bummed about that.

I was even more disappointed in Ren, though. I liked him in Nightshade. He was an obvious alpha, but he was also a good leader—he listened to Calla and respected her wishes. In Wolfsbane, he’s completely different. Even considering the pressure he was under from those around him, it still doesn’t explain his complete change in actions.

Most of all, there just wasn’t enough story to carry an entire book. The first 100 pages is all talking and posturing, and we still don’t learn much. When they finally go to rescue Calla’s pack, they make a stupid mistake—which is fine, because people make mistakes all the time. But they make the same kind of mistake when they go to Eden, and I just couldn’t overlook that. Plus, the 'big reveal' at the end didn’t feel so big because I’d figured it out in the first 50 pages or so. The plot in Wolfsbane wasn’t nearly as well thought out as Nightshade, which is really disappointing.

So many people are gushing about this book, and that’s great. I’m glad they’ve enjoyed it. I considered not finishing this book (which is HUGE for me), but wanted to know what happened to Ren so I kept reading. But it’s not at all my cup of tea, and I won’t be reading the next book.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Amazon Acquires Marshall Cavendish Children's Books

Last week, Amazon announced that it purchased the children’s trade division of Marshall Cavendish. There’s been lots of commentary and discussion around the internet, for good reason, I think. I sure didn’t see it coming. :)

Amazon hasn’t exactly been reserved in expressing their opinion about traditional publishing. When they launched their self-pub division, they gave frequent public statements about why traditional publishing is out of date and pointless. Then, they launched their Encore imprint, which is more in line with traditional publishing. I don’t know too much about it, though, since they don’t do much in the way of children’s fiction.

But now they’ve purchased Marshall Cavendish’s entire children’s trade business, which has an established publishing reputation and good editors that work on high quality books. One of their books was even nominated for the National Book Award this year. Amazon has no plans to change the way these editors do business, and announced that no one will be laid off. It seems like they want a solid foot in the traditional publishing world. The question is, why?

Honestly, I don’t know. Amazon goes to such extremes that it’s tough to discern what they truly feel about any subject. Plus, they haven’t exactly hidden the fact that they want to dominate everywhere, especially the book market. But this is what I hope will happen…

There are quite a few aspects of publishing that worked fine ten, even five, years ago. But with the recent explosion in technology and ebooks, plus the economy being what it is, some older practices aren’t working so well anymore. Amazon has lots of savvy business folks and innovative, forward thinkers. If anyone can modernize the publishing business, they can. And, they’re brave enough to experiment a bit to see what works and what doesn’t. Also, having a fully established, traditional publishing house under their roof might give them a bit more insight into what needs to happen in order to have a successful publishing business with high quality books listed in their catalog.

But still, it is Amazon, the company that wants to ‘take over the world.’ :) I don’t entirely trust them because they’ve done so many 180 degree turns, all in the name of promoting their latest venture. That said, I’m still hopeful. I have my fingers crossed that good things will come from this, both for the sake of Marshall Cavendish’s current authors, and for the future of publishing.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

39 Clues, last seven books

Series Plot Summary: Following the death of their grandmother, Amy and Dan discover that they’re members of the most powerful family in the world: the Cahills. The family is huge, with ancestors such as Benjamin Franklin and Mozart. And, there’s a family secret, which the grandmother sets in motion in her will. Each living member of the family may either take one million dollars as inheritance, or they can search for the 39 clues that lead to something more powerful than anyone can imagine. Amy and Dan choose the clues, and are thrown into an adventure that takes them all over the world.

A couple years ago, I started reading The 39 Clues series. It was enjoyable, both with strengths and weaknesses. I stuck with the series as each book came out, and I haven't been disappointed. The books are fun, and the initial awkwardness of the first three books is gone. The authors eventually figured out how to settle into unified roles of Amy and Dan Cahill, and even Nellie (their au pair). They authors even figured out how to make the characters grow in interesting ways, keeping them feeling consistent. I have to say that I'm impressed. Based on the first three books, I thought the series was going to be disjointed all the way through. Not so at all.

The adventures are fun and entertaining, and I often read each book in a day. And then was looking forward to when the next one would come out. I was a little worried about the fact that there were 39 clues but only ten books, however I really like the way the series ended. The concepts and themes introduced are ones I find interesting anyway, and I like the way the series explores them.

My eight year old son discovered these books earlier this year. He and a few of his classmates love them, and he's read them all. He's even moved onto the next series, Cahills vs. Vespers. I read the 39 Clues book 11, which is basically setup for Cahills vs. Vespers, and am intrigued. I think I will be reading this next series with my son. :)

Monday, December 05, 2011

A Bunch of Articles on Character

I've created another PDF of a compilation of articles, this time on Character. Writing overlaps so much that it's hard to separate it out into subjects like this, so I did my best to choose the articles that directly affected character in a story.

Here's what the PDF contains:

  • Various ways of creating characters
  • Dialogue
  • Point of View
  • Thoughts

So, if that sounds interesting to you, feel free to download it here. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 03, 2011

December Book Giveaway!

Another month, and two more books! Here's what I've got for this month.

ARC of Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Every other day, Kali D'Angelo is a normal sixteen-year-old girl. She goes to public high school. She attends pep rallies. She's human.
And then every day in between . . .She's something else entirely.
Though she still looks like herself, every twenty-four hours predatory instincts take over and Kali becomes a feared demon-hunter with the undeniable urge to hunt, trap, and kill zombies, hellhounds, and other supernatural creatures. Kali has no idea why she is the way she is, but she gives in to instinct anyway. Even though the government considers it environmental terrorism.
When Kali notices a mark on the lower back of a popular girl at school, she knows instantly that the girl is marked for death by one of these creatures. Kali has twenty-four hours to save her and, unfortunately, she'll have to do it as a human. With the help of a few new friends, Kali takes a risk that her human body might not survive. . .and learns the secrets of her mysterious condition in the process.
 
ARC of The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers by Lynn Weingarten
When her boyfriend breaks up with her on the first day of sophomore year, Lucy has no idea how she’s going to make it through homeroom, let alone the rest of her life. Enter three stunning girls with a magical offer Lucy can’t refuse. All she has to do is get a guy to fall in love with her in the next seven days, and then…break his heart and collect one of his brokenhearted tears. As the girls teach Lucy how to hook a guy (with the help of a little magic), she quickly discovers how far she is willing to go—and who she is willing to cross—to get what she wants.
 
To enter, fill out the form below. Then come back on Saturday, December 31st to see if you've won. Good luck!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Pledge by Kimberly Derting

In the violent country of Ludania, the classes are strictly divided by the language they speak. The smallest transgression, like looking a member of a higher class in the eye while they are speaking their native tongue, results in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina has always been able to understand the languages of all classes, and she's spent her life trying to hide her secret. The only place she can really be free is the drug-fueled underground clubs where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. It's there that she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy named Max who speaks a language she's never heard before . . . and her secret is almost exposed. Charlie is intensely attracted to Max, even though she can't be sure where his real loyalties lie. As the emergency drills give way to real crisis and the violence escalates, it becomes clear that Charlie is the key to something much bigger: her country's only chance for freedom from the terrible power of a deadly regime.

The premise of this book is just too cool. That concept of language dividing class really illustrates the power of words, and my writer geek got all excited. :)

I really liked Charlie. She’s interesting, has an easy-going nature, a great sense of morality, and she’s smart. Her friendship with Brooklyn felt real, and I liked the irony of her submissiveness to Brooklyn and the significance of her gift of languages. Charlie grows into herself in this story.

The end had a tiny contrived moment that hugely impacted the rest of the story, which brought my enjoyment down a notch. If subsequent actions hadn’t been based on that tiny moment, then I could have easily dismissed it. But since the rest of the ending was dependent on that moment, I had a hard time believing it. I was completely riveted up to that point, though.

I’ve heard mixed reactions to the epilogue so far. I’m not usually a big fan, but this one worked (for the most part). There was one jarring moment between Charlie and Max, but I think it was because I didn’t really feel the passage of time. Though it is laid out in the epilogue, so I’m not sure what to think on that. Maybe it just came too much out of the blue. But I did like the very end of the epilogue, which opens things up to another book yet still gives me a satisfying ending to this story. I like stories like that.

Overall, this is a very entertaining read, and if there’s another book then I’ll be reading it. :)

100 Book Reading Challenge: December

Well, I'm at 64 books so far, so I think it's safe to say I'm not going to reach 100 this year. Too many things going on. But I have been getting a lot of writing done, which is good. So I'd say it's a fair trade-off. :)

This will be the last giveaway for the 2011 reading challenge, and it's been tough to keep up with it so I probably won't be carrying it over into next year. But I will keep doing the regular monthly giveaways.

This month, I've got a couple great books to give away.

Hardback of Legend by Marie Lu
What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.
From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias's death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.
 
ARC of How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
Jill MacSweeney just wants everything to go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she's been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends--everyone who wants to support her. You can't lose one family member and simply replace him with a new one, and when her mom decides to adopt a baby, that's exactly what it feels like she's trying to do. And that's decidedly not normal. With her world crumbling around her, can Jill come to embrace a new member of the family?
Mandy Kalinowski knows what it's like to grow up unwanted--to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, she knows she wants a better life for her baby. But can giving up a child be as easy as it seems? And will she ever be able to find someone to care for her, too?
 
To enter, fill out the form below. You may join this challenge at any time. Also, you must follow these rules, or your entry will be disqualified:
 
  1. One URL per entry, and that URL must directly link to a book review. A general link to your blog or Goodreads profile isn't specific enough (I simply don't have the time to go sifting through the hundred or so of these entries to figure out what everyone is reading).
  2. You may enter as many times as you like, BUT you must keep to the one URL per entry rule. Otherwise your entry will only count as one.
  3. You must have reviewed the book IN DECEMBER. Past reviews don't count.
FYI--to get to a direct link to your Goodreads reviews, click on the title of the book, and then click on the "My Review" heading just above where you type in your review. A link to your profile will render your entry invalid.

Come back here on Saturday, December 31st to see if you've won. Good luck!!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Winner of the November Reading Challenge Giveaway!!

It's the end of the month and time to announce the winner of this month's reading challenge giveaway.

The winner of these two books is...



Ashley!!

Congratulations!! I'll get your books out to you asap. As for everyone else, stop by tomorrow to see what I'm giving away next month!

Winner of the November Book Giveaway!

I was supposed to announce this yesterday, but was still getting caught up on a bunch of things and forgot. So, here is the winner of these two books...



Jennifer!!

Congratulations!! I'll get your books out to you asap. For everyone else, stop by this saturday to see what else I'm giving away!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Five Things I'm Thankful For

Hope all you Americans out there had a great Thanksgiving with yummy turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and pumpkin pie! :)

 
I got a nasty stomach flu virus the day before Thanksgiving, which almost derailed our plans. I haven't been laid out by an illness so thoroughly in years. It wasn't pretty. Fortunately, it was a 24 hour thing and I was able to go visit my grandparents and other immediate family for the weekend. It was so good to see them that it inspired me to make a list of the top five things I'm thankful for:

 
  1. My husband. For too many reasons to list. :)
  2. My kids. They're great, and they took care of me when I was sick, and even made a point not to get overly energetic and refrained from arguing with each other. Which is good, because I couldn't even get out of bed. :)
  3. My family. They're the greatest.
  4. My friends. They're fun, supportive, and interesting. I'm lucky to have met them.
  5. My agent. There's none better.


Even though I don't have everything I want, I have a lot. And I'm grateful for it all.
 
What are you thankful for?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy (early) Thanksgiving!

My kids are home all week for Thanksgiving break, and I'm still intensely focused on my WIP, so I don't have a post for today. Instead, I wish everyone in the US a very happy Thanksgiving! Eat lots of turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. I know I will. :)

Apparently, you should avoid the fish, though...


Um...yeah...guess I'll stick with turkey...

See you all next week!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

You Against Me by Jenny Downham

If someone hurts your sister and you're any kind of man, you seek revenge, right? If your brother's been accused of a terrible crime and you're the main witness, then you banish all doubt and defend him. Isn't that what families do? When Mikey's sister claims a boy assaulted her at a party, his world of work and girls begins to fall apart. When Ellie's brother is charged with the crime, but says he didn't do it, her world of revision, exams and fitting in at a new school begins to unravel. When Mikey and Ellie meet, two worlds collide.
This story shows the aftermath of an accusation of date rape in a very realistic way. The focus is on the families of the parties involved, rather than victim or the accused rapist. People don’t tend to think about how rape can send shockwaves through families—both the victim’s and the accused rapist’s. Sometimes bringing them closer, sometimes tearing them apart. I thought this was brilliant, and the story did a great job of capturing the ordeal that both families go through.

All the characters are interesting and multi-dimensional. No one is all victim or all bad guy or all supportive sibling. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has moments of reflection and remorse. In other words, everyone is human. They all seemed real to me.

The story surrounds Mikey and Ellie, siblings to Karyn and Tom—the victim and accused rapist. Mikey listens to his family bash Tom, saying his whole family so rich they’re above the law. Ellie listens to her family bash Karyn, saying she was begging for it with her short skirt and drinking too much, and regretted her choice the next morning so she went after Tom and his money. It was really interesting to see the immediate loyalty each family shows, and also interesting to see this loyalty manifested by attacking the other side. That rang true to me. I imagine this would happen often in real life.

Both Mikey and Ellie set out to protect their siblings, which is how their paths cross. Against all odds, they like each other, but the obstacles between them are huge. I really liked how their romance unfolded, and how each grew and changed as they got to know each other. This story really focuses on how they deal with their broken families, and also come to terms with each other. The trial is in the background, and I’ve heard some readers complain that we don’t get more information about it. But I was okay with that, because this wasn’t Karyn’s story. Or Tom’s. I really liked how Mikey and Ellie end up, and I liked how some things were left up in the air. That’s more how real life is.

I haven’t read Downham’s first book, Before I Die, yet. But I will. You Against Me is so poignant and well-written that I can’t wait to read more of Downham’s work.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Inspirational Quotes

I'm completely entrenched in my current project, and didn't get a chance to finish today's post. So I've got some more great quote for you. Enjoy!

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.
- Mark Twain

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.
- Robert Frost

Great writing leads constantly into surprises, and the writer should be the first one surprised.
- Bernard Malamud

Most bad books get that way because their authors are engaged in trying to justify themselves. If a vain author is an alcoholic, then the most sympathetically portrayed character in his book will be an alcoholic. This sort of thing is very boring for outsiders.
- Stephen Vizinczey

To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself...Anybody can have ideas—the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph.
- Mark Twain

Some critics will write 'Maya Angelou is a natural writer' — which is right after being a natural heart surgeon.
- Maya Angelou

I would never write about anyone who is not at the end of his rope.
- Stanley Elkin

The person who finds the time [to write] is the one who is going to become a writer. The person who doesn’t, won’t.
- Meg Cabot

I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.
- Jorge Luis Borges

There's a great power in words if you don't hitch too many of them together.
- Josh Billings

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.
- Scott Adams

When I start a book, I always think it's patently absurd that I can write one. No one, certainly not me, can write a book 500 pages long. But I know I can write 15 pages, and if I write 15 pages every day, eventually I'll have 500 of them.
- John Saul

Writing comes more easily if you have something to say.
- Sholem Asch

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there. It can.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.
There is.
She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.
She's wrong.

This book left me with such mixed feelings. The story starts out well, with a mystery as to how Mara survived an accident that killed her friends. She’d blocked out the memory of that night, and I liked how it gradually came back to her in pieces. I really like it when I get to discover the story right along with the character, so I had high hopes this was going to keep me intrigued. And it did, for the first half or so.

After that, things started getting…strange. The paranormal aspect was introduced, but it conflicted with Mara’s real world problems. As a result, I didn’t know what to think about any of it, and not necessarily in a good way. I don’t mind not knowing, but I love it when I find out the big secret and then all of the clues suddenly fall into place. That didn’t really happen in the story.

The twist on the last page wasn’t as shocking as Mara makes it out to be. Sure, she’d been questioning everything since page one, and she explained away her glimpses to her own doubts. That makes sense on its own, but there were other clues that she just kept explaining away. There was too much of that, for my taste. I wanted to see her question her questions, and throw herself into complete confusion. Then again, if she had done that, it probably would have changed the ending.

Which brings me to the ending… I really, really didn’t like Mara at the end. She takes a 180 degree turn and does something that doesn’t fit her character, especially for the situation, and I lost pretty much all sympathy for her after that. I understand that we all make bad choices, and she made the worst choice that anyone can make. If she’d been caught up in a highly tense and stressful situation, her actions would have, understandably, stemmed from that. But she wasn’t. She was calm and made a conscious decision to do what she did, ruining three lives in the process instead of one. Well, four if you include Mara. That’s a disturbingly cold thing she did, and I didn’t particularly care as she realizes the huge mistake she’d made. I felt she deserved her suffering. Perhaps that’s how the title fits in with the story—Mara becomes Unbecoming. For me, it didn’t work at all and brought my enjoyment down several notches.

The rest of the book is okay, mostly saturated with a romance between Mara and Noah, the typical hot-jerk-boyfriend. I wish there weren’t so many stories with this kind of boyfriend, but there you go. There’s nothing really new with their romance. I liked watching Mara sort through her memories and try to figure things out, though I do wish that we’d have gotten a clear image of the single most important memory in the story. The fact that we didn’t makes me feel like I’m being manipulated into buying the next book. Not the way I want to end a story.

So, I don’t know. I guess I see this as a story that had a huge amount of potential, but didn’t live up to it. I might give the next book a 20-page try, but I honestly won’t know until it comes out. Until then…

Monday, November 07, 2011

NaNoWriMo: Pros and Cons

National Novel Writing Month. Write 50,000 words in a month? Gah! And yet, many people tackle this incredible challenge every year. I've tried it three times so far, but only succeeded in generating the required amount of words once. That time, I worked on a novel that I knew really well. I had a detailed outline, I'd done character profiling, and I knew exactly where to take my story. So, the one time I 'won' NaNo, I cranked out 58k words in three weeks.

The other two times? I didn't know the story or the characters nearly as well, and I wasn't willing to sacrifice them just to meet my word count. So, I slowed down and did some exploring. It took much longer to finish those drafts, but when I was done, I was happy with them.

I'm not doing NaNo this year, but I have some friends who are going for it and that got me thinking about the pros and cons of this endeavor.

Pro: You get 50k words written.
Con: 50k words of what?

Pro: Even if you end up with 50k words of crap, you've at least got a solid start on your project.
Con: Yeah, unless you have to chuck it all and start over. So why do it right in the first place?

Pro: Even if you have to chuck it all, you've at least had the chance to really explore the idea and characters, and there's probably some nuggets in there that are worth keeping.
Con: But then you have to search through 50k words of crap to find a couple nuggets.

Anyone have anything else to add? :)

Clearly, NaNo has worked well for me, and it also hasn't worked at all. It all depended on the circumstances surrounding my projects. Have you done NaNo? How has it fared for you? Are you doing it now?

Saturday, November 05, 2011

November Book Giveaway!

Another month, and two more books to give away!

ARC of Unleashed by Nancy Holder and Debbie ViguiƩ
Katelyn McBride's life changed in an instant when her mother died. Uprooted from her California home, Katelyn was shipped to the middle of nowhere, Arkansas, to her only living relative, her grandfather. And now she has to start over in Wolf Springs, a tiny village in the Ozark Mountains.
Like any small town, Wolf Springs has secrets. But the secrets hideen here are more sinister than Katelyn could ever imagine. It's a town with a history that reaches back centuries, spans continents, and conceals terrifying truths.
And Katelyn McBride is about to change everything.
Broken families, ageless grudges, forced alliances, and love that blooms in the darkest night--welcome to Wolf Springs.
 
ARC of The File on Angelyn Stark by Catherine Atkins
Angelyn Stark has a secret.
One day, her neighbor and friend, Nathan, saw something happen. Something between Angelyn and her stepfather. Then he told his grandmother, who was always looking out for Angelyn, and it turned into a mess. But Nathan didn't know what he was talking about then, and he doesn't know now.
Three years later, Angelyn is in high school and she thinks she's getting along fine--but there's a young teacher who wants to help her. He says she has potential she isn't living up to. Nobody has ever cared this way about Angelyn, not since Nathan's grandmother, anyway. But what does Mr. Rossi really want from her? And once Angelyn starts falling for him, does she really care?

To enter, fill out the form below. One entry per person, please. Since the last Saturday of the month is over Thanksgiving weekend, I'm extending the contest to Tuesday, November 29th. So, stop by then to see if you've won!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Eve by Anna Carey

The year is 2032, sixteen years after a deadly virus—and the vaccine intended to protect against it—wiped out most of the earth’s population. The night before eighteen-year-old Eve’s graduation from her all-girls school she discovers what really happens to new graduates, and the horrifying fate that awaits her.
Fleeing the only home she’s ever known, Eve sets off on a long, treacherous journey, searching for a place she can survive. Along the way she encounters Caleb, a rough, rebellious boy living in the wild. Separated from men her whole life, Eve has been taught to fear them, but Caleb slowly wins her trust...and her heart. He promises to protect her, but when soldiers begin hunting them, Eve must choose between true love and her life.
 
This story was not for me. It started out okay, though it felt rushed. No time was dedicated to building the relationships between the girls in School, or giving Eve time to process that her whole life was a lie. Instead, another girl (Arden, who has a reputation as a prankster) tells her the truth the night before Eve's life was scheduled to change. So, why would Eve believe her so easily? Enough to risk swimming across a lake in the middle of the night, even though she can't swim? I don't buy it.

However, if we'd been able to see more of the school, how the girls interacted, and how Eve finds clues to corroborate what Arden says, then Eve's trek across the lake would make more sense. Or, even better, if the story had begun with Eve finding Arden coming out of the lake, looking horrified and jumpy, that would give Eve reason enough to wonder what was really going on. Especially if Arden subsequently seems reserved and eyes the Teachers with suspicion--this would make Eve even more curious.

But none of this happened, so the beginning got off to a rough start. Throughout the rest of the book, Eve is too passive. She doesn't resist the bounty hunter (that first scene with him, btw, doesn't make sense because the bounty hunter doesn't have three hands), she doesn't try to help Marjorie or Otis, and she lets both Arden and Caleb leave under questionable circumstances (especially Caleb...that irritated me in so many ways). About halfway through the book, I actively disliked Eve. I thought Arden was much more interesting.

Many aspects to the plot didn't make sense. For example, why did the girls in School receive such an education, even skewed the way it was? Also, why were they taught to fear men so much? Where are all these babies going, anyway? To replenish the orphan work force? It doesn't make sense that they'd go to rich families in the city. Kids are expensive to support. If there are whisperings about why the king wants Eve, there would surely be whisperings about where the babies go. On that note, it also doesn't make sense that the king would go so far to pursue Eve when, clearly, she isn't what everyone thought. So why does he?

If the answer to any of these questions is "you'll find out in the next book," well, that's too frustrating for my taste and it makes me lose all interest in the story. There is a fine line between withholding information and keeping an air of mystery. This story had too many questions and not enough answers for my taste. I doubt I'll read the next book.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

100 Book Reading Challenge: November

I'm still on that reading roller coaster, but I'm still managing to read. So that's what's important. :)

NOTE: In order to enter this contest, you don't need to agree to read 100 books this year. You just need to agree to read a book and scribble down some thoughts this month. That's all. :) A couple people were confused by this, so I just wanted to clarify. :)

Anyway, here's the books I'm giving away this month.

ARC of Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days. The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.
The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.
Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

ARC of Dark Eden by Patrick Carman
Fifteen-year-old Will Besting is sent by his doctor to Fort Eden, an institution meant to help patients suffering from crippling phobias. Once there, Will and six other teenagers take turns in mysterious fear chambers and confront their worst nightmares—with the help of the group facilitator, Rainsford, an enigmatic guide. When the patients emerge from the chamber, they feel emboldened by the previous night's experiences. But each person soon discovers strange, unexplained aches and pains. . . . What is really happening to the seven teens trapped in this dark Eden?

To enter, fill out the form below. You may join this challenge at any time. Also, you must follow these rules, or your entry will be disqualified:
  1. One URL per entry, and that URL must directly link to a book review. A general link to your blog or Goodreads profile isn't specific enough (I simply don't have the time to go sifting through the hundred or so of these entries to figure out what everyone is reading).
  2. You may enter as many times as you like, BUT you must keep to the one URL per entry rule. Otherwise your entry will only count as one.
  3. You must have reviewed the book IN NOVEMBER. Past reviews don't count.
FYI--to get to a direct link to your Goodreads reviews, click on the title of the book, and then click on the "My Review" heading just above where you type in your review. A link to your profile will render your entry invalid.

Come back here on Wednesday, November 30th to see if you've won. Good luck!!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Winner of The Galaxy Games by Greg Fishbone!

The most important event in human history is here, in The Galaxy Games: The Challengers by Greg Fishbone! I promised to send off a copy to some lucky winner today, so let's find out who that is, shall we?

According to Random.org, the winner is...

Evan!!

Congratulations!! I'll send the book out to you asap.

For the rest of you, if you're still looking for a contest, I'm launching one tomorrow, and another this saturday. So stop by to enter!

Winner of the October Reading Challenge Giveaway!!


I'm up to 61 books, so six more than last month. *shrug* It's progress. :)

Anyway, it's time to announce the winner of these two books.


And that person is...

Margaret!!

Congratulations!! I'll get your books out to you asap. I'm launching next month's reading challenge contest tomorrow, so stay tuned! NOTE: There was some confusion, so I wanted to clarify something. You don't need to agree to read 100 books this year in order to enter this contest. You just need to read and review at least one book next month to enter. That's all. :)

Blog Tour: The Galaxy Games by Greg Fishbone

Today I'm interviewing Greg R. Fishbone, author of The Galaxy Games: The Challengers, a humorous middle-grade book about the most important event in human history, aliens, and sports. Greg is here to tell us a bit about his book as well as how his tour has been going.

Writer Musings: Welcome, Greg! How does it feel to be on the last day of a month-long blog tour?

Greg Fishbone: It's like finishing a marathon.

WM: How so?

GF: More like a sense of dragging myself across thefinish line, puking into a bush, and wanting to sleep for a week. Maybe the triumph will sink in later.

WM: Yes, that sounds understandable. You did 31 guest blog entries in 31 days--what were some of the highlights?

GF: There were some great essays and resources that will definitely find a permanent home on my website. The one I did about writing a sophomore outing for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations, the one about book trailers at Shevi Arnold's blog, and writing SF for young readers at DeborahJ. Ross. I enjoyed the conversation I had with Simon Haynes, live from Australia, and it was great to present materialfrom some deleted scenes that didn't make it into the book at Roots in Myth. I had a lot of fun this month.

WM: Sounds great! This is the first blogging you've done it awhile, isn't it?

GF: That's true. I had an author blog, in one form oranother, for about ten years until I gave it up earlier this year. The problemwas that whenever there was something newsworthy happening in my life, therewasn't time to write about it. But when I did have time to blog, I didn't haveanything much to say.

WM: Has this blog tour made you more or less likely to blog in the future?

GF: More likely. It had been just long enough that I'd started to miss having a virtual soapbox and megaphone, and it's helpful to reflect on things from time to time. Blogging every day isn't for me, but I'm excited to announce that I'm going to be blogging once a month as part of a newgroup blog called Read It and Laugh.

WM: Can you tell us what that's about?

GF: Myself and a bunch of fellow authors of humorousYA and Midgrade books will make you laugh until you cry, and then cry until you start laughing again. I call it the laugh-cry-laugh cycle, patent pending.

WM: What else is going on in the Great Galactic Blog Tour?

GF: The big contest ends today, and also there's the puzzle contest. This final piece is a huge key that should really help folks to put it all together.

WM: Very nice. Has this all helped you get word out about The Galaxy Games series?

GF: I like to think that every blog post was a pathfor people to find out more about the book. The tour as a whole should reallygive people a good idea of what I'm all about and what the book is all about,and hopefully that will make them want to pick up a copy of their own. Available in hardcover or ebook from stores everywhere!

WM: Thanks for visiting with us today,Greg!

GF: Thanks for hosting me, Tabitha.

To see more of what Greg is up to, check out his website at GFishbone.com. I will be announcing the winner of his book, The Galaxy Games, at the end of the day. So you have until then to get your last-minute entries in!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Winner of the October Book Giveaway!

Halloween is around the corner, which means October is almost gone. And it also means it's time to announce the winner of these two books.

 
And that winner is...

Maidenveil!!

Congratulations! I'll get your books out to you asap.

There's still the other contest going on until monday, so sign up for that if you haven't already. I'll be announcing more contests next week, so stay tuned!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Angel Burn by L.A. Weatherly

Willow knows she’s different from other girls, and not just because she loves tinkering with cars. Willow has a gift. She can look into the future and know people’s dreams and hopes, their sorrows and regrets, just by touching them. She has no idea where this power comes from. But the assassin, Alex, does. Gorgeous, mysterious Alex knows more about Willow than Willow herself. He knows that her powers link to dark and dangerous forces, and that he’s one of the few humans left who can fight them. When Alex finds himself falling in love with his sworn enemy, he discovers that nothing is as it seems, least of all good and evil.
What a fabulous book!! I’ve been meaning to write this review for quite some time, but other things kept getting in the way. Now, I can finally sit down and do this book justice.

First off, I was skeptical when I picked it up. I’ve been burned (no pun intended) by angel books in the past, and was worried it was going to happen again. And, to be honest, the beginning didn’t pull me in right away. Sure, I liked that Willow knows how to fix cars. Okay, I really liked that. But it still didn’t pull me in. I kept going, though, because I’d heard intriguing things about this story and wanted to know more.

Once I learned about the angels and their part in the story, I could NOT put this book down. It’s so refreshingly unique. I’m looking forward to learning more about them.

The dynamic between Willow and Alex is very well done (the story is blessedly free of love triangles, in case anyone was wondering). I’m not usually a fan of dual points of view, but in this case it works. Both Willow and Alex struggle with their identities, which are a direct result of their heritage. Something every teen can connect to. Also, the strength of the angels is wonderfully illustrated through Beth. Actually, everything is shown so well through the characters. I had an easy time connecting both to them and, consequently, to the story.

I cannot wait for the next book, Angel Fire, to come out in the US. That’s saying a lot, because I’m not usually so excited about sequels. :) Definitely recommended.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Bunch of Articles on the Submission Process

For those of you who liked the articles on plot I compiled into a pdf recently, I finished another one. This one contains of a bunch of articles I've written on this blog over the past three years. This one is on the the submission process.

  • Attacking the pitch
  • Writing the synopsis
  • The query as a whole package
  • What to do (and not do) with rejection
  • Dealing with THE CALL

All of this is on my blog, of course, but if you'd like it in one single, handy document, you can download it here.

I'm slowly putting together the next document, and it's on character. So, if this sounds interesting to you, stay tuned... :) I'm planning to release it sometime next month. Ish.:)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

What if you were bound for a new world, about to pledge your life to someone you'd been promised to since birth, and one unexpected violent attack made survival—not love—the issue? Out in the murky nebula lurks an unseen enemy: the New Horizon. On its way to populate a distant planet in the wake of Earth's collapse, the ship's crew has been unable to conceive a generation to continue its mission. They need young girls desperately, or their zealous leader's efforts will fail. Onboard their sister ship, the Empyrean, the unsuspecting families don't know an attack is being mounted that could claim the most important among them...
Fifteen-year-old Waverly is part of the first generation to be successfully conceived in deep space; she was born on the Empyrean, and the large farming vessel is all she knows. Her concerns are those of any teenager—until Kieran Alden proposes to her. The handsome captain-to-be has everything Waverly could ever want in a husband, and with the pressure to start having children, everyone is sure he's the best choice. Except for Waverly, who wants more from life than marriage—and is secretly intrigued by the shy, darkly brilliant Seth.
But when the Empyrean faces sudden attack by their assumed allies, they quickly find out that the enemies aren't all from the outside.

I was looking forward to this book because there aren’t that many YA stories set in a spaceship, and the possibilities are endless. Plus, the fertility issues hinted in the summary above sounded intriguing. So I happily settled into the story.

The first third is fantastic. I liked the characters, the conflict was intense, and the pacing was spot on. In fact, it only took an hour to get a third of the way through the book because I could not put it down.

Then, things took a bit of a turn, leaving me scratching my head in many places. A few characters seem to transform inexplicably, from normal to something near insane, and their motivations aren’t clear. There were a few instances where information was withheld (such as the situation surrounding Waverly’s dad and Seth’s mom), probably to heighten tension and pique the reader’s interest. But all it really did was make these characters less understandable and unsympathetic. I needed to know what was driving the characters, but that was never made clear. As a result, their actions felt contrived. By the end of the story, I didn’t like any of them anymore.

I also had issues with some aspects of the plot. Much of it didn’t make sense. For example, if a scientist is smart enough to figure out how manipulate the number of eggs released from an ovary, he’s smart enough to recognize the potential for inbred genetic issues down the road. Unless they monitor future generations with an insane zeal, they're going to have an extremely difficult time keeping half-brothers and sisters from inter-marrying.

Also, many of the characters are middle-aged with atrophied muscles. They break out in a sweat by simply carrying a dinner tray, or even walking down a hallway. Because of this, there is no way they’d be able to fire a gun with any kind of control. It takes a lot of strength to keep the kickback from knocking you on your butt, especially with the higher caliber weapons. But they fire several rounds, with no repercussions. This pulled me out of the story on several occasions because the scenes felt contrived.

The last thing I want to look at is how incredibly dark this book is. I actually like dark books a lot. I love a book that can really ‘go there’ and get to the heart of difficult and uncomfortable concepts and issues. There are plenty of difficult and uncomfortable concepts in this book, but they are a bit confusing. I think the author was trying to show both sides of the coin regarding religion, but the end result wasn’t as clear as it could have been. This is partly due to the lack of connection to the characters. If we don’t understand what is driving them, then we can’t understand where they are taking us.

The conversation between Seth and Waverly at the end really illustrates this. Waverly’s actions are somewhat understandable, considering what she’s been through. But Seth’s aren’t. In fact, it shows just how little he’s learned, and how manipulative and ruthless (borderline sociopathic) he is. And I still don’t understand why he is this way. I don't really want to spend any more time with these characters because their actions don't provoke any sympathy from me. Perhaps the next book will be better.

Monday, October 17, 2011

When Is ‘Good Enough’ Really Good Enough?

When do you consider your work good enough? When your critique partners have no more major comments? When it’s published? When it gets a starred review? When it wins an award?
Perhaps. But, for every answer, there’s a way to refute it.

 
‘It’s good enough for my critique partners, so it’s got to be good enough for an agent or editor.’
Maybe. It depends on how thorough your critique partners were, and how well you absorbed their feedback.

 
‘It’s good enough to get me an agent, so it must be good enough for an editor.’
Again, maybe. If your manuscript attracted an agent, then there’s at least one shining element to your story that she believes in. But that doesn’t mean she thinks it’s close to being done.

 
‘It’s good enough for my editor, so it must be good enough to greet the world.’
This depends on so many things. The editor could have been sold on that same shining element that attracted your agent, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the book has transformed into one big, shining story. It might have, or the editor might have gotten it to the point where the flaws were merely acceptable. Meaning, many readers may not notice or care about them, but the astute reader will likely catch them every time.

 
So, what about ‘My book got a starred review’ or ‘My book won an award’?
A starred review comes from an individual, so it means the flaws were overshadowed by the good parts for that one person. If another person from the same organization had reviewed your book, you might have gotten a different response. It all depends on taste. An award is bestowed by a group of people, and they agree that your work is deserving of this award. It’s still a small group, though. Much smaller than the rest of the reading population. So is this a good measure?

 
What does it really mean to say ‘my work is good enough’?

 
Let’s say you give your work to an agent or editor hoping she won’t notice a weak area in the story, or you assume that weak area is fine if she doesn’t say anything about it. Or, let’s say you rationalize away a voiced concern because so-and-so-author gets away with it in her books. Well, you can almost count on this coming back to haunt you, especially if you’re a debut author.

 
Once your work is out there, there’s no taking it back. If you (or someone else) notice a flaw in your work, other people will, too. Hoping, insisting, or rationalizing that something isn’t a problem doesn’t make it true. Instead, it sets you up for the firing squad that’s taken up residence on Amazon’s review forums. :)

 
For me, this is what it really means to say one’s work is good enough:
  1. You have listened with an objective ear to the feedback from your critique partners, agent, and/or editor.
  2. You have taken a good, hard look at the areas of concern (and put other successful books out of your mind).
  3. You’ve done everything you can to resolve those issues, likely moving out of your comfort zone in order to do it.
There might still be a reader who catches something that no one else did. But, you know what? That’s okay, because, if you’ve done everything above, that thing will be so minor it really won’t matter.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Galaxy Games: The Challengers by Greg Fishbone

Things are looking up for Tyler Sato (literally!) as he and his friends scan the night sky for a star named for him by his Tokyo cousins in honor of his eleventh birthday. Ordinary stars tend to stay in one place, but Ty’s seems to be streaking directly toward Earth at an alarming rate. Soon the whole world is talking about TY SATO, the doomsday asteroid, and life is turned upside down for Ty Sato, the boy, who would rather be playing hoops in his best friend’s driveway.
Meanwhile, aboard a silver spaceship heading for Earth, M’Frozza, a girl with three eyes and five nose holes, is on a secret mission. M’Frozza is the captain of planet Mrendaria’s Galaxy Games team, and she is desperate to save her world from a dishonorable performance in the biggest sporting event in the universe.
What will happen when Ty meets M’Frozza? Get ready for the most important event in human history—it’ll be off the backboard, around the rim, and out of this world!
 
Greg Fishbone is doing a pretty cool blog tour for his book, Galaxy Games. It started on October 1st and goes through the end of the month. With each stop at a blog, he gives a clue to the Galaxy Games Puzzle Contest. I'll be hosting his tour on the 31st--the last day of the tour, and the biggest clue of them all! So be sure to stop by.
 
For participating in the tour, I received a review copy in the mail, which my eight year old son promptly claimed it so he could read it. I managed to get my hands on it while he was at school, and I can safely say that this is a book that boys will love. It's campy, silly, fun, and I laughed out loud more than once. Though the summary focuses on Ty and M'Frozza, there are other main characters that play key roles. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and so did my son. It's along the lines of Whales on Stilts by MT Anderson, but not quite as 'out there.' Definitely fun for the whole family.
 
I'm giving away my review copy (much to my son's chagrin...I promised him I'd get him his own copy), so if you'd like to enter, then fill out the form below. I'll announce the winner on October 31st, after the final clue is revealed in the blog tour.
 

Monday, October 10, 2011

How To Get The Most Out Of A Critique, Part Five

Last week, I talked about how to incorporate feedback from an agent or editor, and today I want to talk about the fine line between holding on too tightly and knowing the feedback isn’t right for your story.
Kill your darlings. People say that over and over again, but one could argue that all of your writing consists of darlings. So, how do you know whether a darling needs to go or stay? That’s a tough call. But there are ways to figure it out.

The first step is to figure out what kind of person you are. Are you resistant to change? Are you easily influenced? Are you easily overwhelmed? Knowing this will help you tremendously because it will affect your strategy.

Resistant To Change
If this is you, then the revision process can be a complete nightmare for your critique partners. Why? If you constantly resist input, they’re going to wonder why the heck you bothered to ask them to critique your work. One who is resistant to change can easily make himself believe that he’s holding on to the key elements of his story, when they may not actually be key elements. But how do you figure out the difference?

One way is to make a list of every single issue raised in your feedback, even the ones you don’t agree with. Then, take each issue one at a time and experiment with it. What happens to the story if you make this change? Is it better or worse? Or, what happens if you add a few tweaks to this change? Then what? I’ve discovered more revision gems this way than I can count. But if you don’t try, you’ll never know. So, give it a try, and you might surprise yourself.

Easily Influenced
If this is you, then I think you have the hardest time with revision than anyone else, because it’s easy to see the merit in other people’s comments. That leads to incorporating those ideas and suggestions in your story, even if they don’t fit. Then you end up with Frankenstein’s monster, and, eventually, the whole project will likely be abandoned. How do you keep this from happening?

Again, make a list of all the comments. Instead of experimenting with them with actual writing, just think about each issue one at a time, taking it through your story from start to finish. Does it affect the setting? Does it affect how the character views certain things? Are these better or worse for your story? It’s very important that you do not start revising right away. Instead, let your mind play with these ideas and see where they fall.

Easily Overwhelmed
I think most people fall into this category, especially when you’ve got a group of people giving you feedback. Or, if you get some suggestions from an agent or editor, you can easily feel overwhelmed because of the potential for a connection. But there are ways to deal with it.

Make a list of everything, but not in the traditional way. You want to deal with each issue individually, so make your list such that you can only see one thing at a time. You could use index cards, for example, or use another sheet of paper to cover the rest of the list so you can only see one new thing at a time. Then, deal with only that issue. When you know for sure whether you should keep or discard it, move on to the next. Keep doing this until you reach the end, and don’t worry about how long it takes to get there.

There is another thing you should do regardless of what kind of person you are, and that is…

SLEEP ON IT

After you’ve made your list, set it aside and get a good night’s sleep. Or a week. Or a even a month. When you’re not actively thinking about the list, that’s when you should return to it because that’s when your brain will be the most objective. You’ll be able to see things that you probably wouldn’t have when it was all fresh. And, any emotion associated with the feedback will have had a chance to settle, and you can better assess what’s right for your story.

Really, though, it all comes down to you as an individual. The only way you’re going to figure out the best way to deal with feedback is to experiment with various systems and see what feels right. If you haven’t done this yet, get to it. :)

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Blood Red Road by Moira Young

Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That's fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba's world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back. Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she's a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.

The tension in this story is non-stop from beginning to end, and the pacing leaves you breathless. I finished this book in a day and a half simply because I couldn't put it down.

That said, the beginning was a little hard to get through. Saba did not come across as likable or interesting. Her sun rises and sets with her brother (which, at 18 years old, kinda creeps me out), she's horrible to her little sister, and she has absolutely no curiosity. She’s even less likable after Lugh is taken and her obsession with him is moved front and center.

When Saba lands in the cage so easily, I considered setting this book down. The plot at this point rubbed me the wrong way because it felt clunky, though I can't quite put my finger on why. However, I'm glad I kept reading because Saba becomes so much better by the end. Her transformation is gradual and believable, and everything she went through directly affects her growth. It makes sense why she had to endure the things she endured, because it enables her growth toward the end. I’m very glad I stuck with this book.

There was one thing, however, that I could not get over... I really really didn't like the writing style. The lack of quotes and the misspellings in order to get the voice to come through made the prose too difficult to read. I had to stop too many times to ponder out several words, as well as what was being said aloud. I prefer to be seamlessly submerged in a story, and this writing style doesn't allow that.

I am still interested in reading more, though I do hope it's easier to read. And I hope the next story follows Jack. I didn't feel like I knew him very well by the end, and I still think he's got secrets. I'd like to know what they are.

Monday, October 03, 2011

How To Get The Most Out Of A Critique, Part Four

Last week, I talked about how to incorporate a critiquer’s feedback into your work. Today, I want address what happens if that feedback comes from an agent or editor.
It’s one thing to dismiss feedback from another writer, but it gets more complicated when it comes from an agent or editor. After all, they’re the ones who can get us to that coveted that Published and Listed status. All of a sudden, the stakes have gone up.

When an agent requests your full manuscript, what’s the first thing you do? You cheer, of course! A request is a good thing, which could lead to other good things. And if that agent likes your story but has a few misgivings, she might offer you some advice to revise. If she really likes it, she might even invite you to resubmit. This is great cause for celebration, closely followed by nauseating nerves. This could be your chance to snag an agent, so you want to do your absolute best work. Plus, agents have their fingers on the pulse of the industry so if you do what she tells you to do, it’ll be all right. Right?

Wrong.

It’s easy to get caught up in revising for an agent or editor because they are directly responsible for getting you published. The problem is that you can lose sight of your story and focus on doing what she says, which may or may not work. If it doesn’t work, then the agent/editor is going to say no, and you might be upset and frustrated because you did all that work for nothing.

It’s possible that, after all that work, your story really is stronger and the agent just didn’t love it enough to take it on. Or, it’s possible that you did all that work for nothing. How do you know which is true?

An agent just a person and not much different from a fellow critquer, except that she has more insight and experience with respect to the industry. But she doesn’t have more insight into your story than your critique partner does. She can’t, because she’s not you. No one has better insight than you do.

I’ve heard many writers lament about doing revisions for an agent only to be turned down. This sometimes turns into a complaint about how the agent demanded they write the story for her instead of letting them stay true to the story. The writers almost always swing to the other extreme and they proclaim that they are through with writing for other people and will only write for themselves—often coupled with an aversion to feedback.

These writers don’t know it, but they fell victim to the idea that if they do what an agent tells them to do, it’ll get them published. Which they’ve just proven isn’t always true. So, what do you do about that?

You write for you, of course. :) To do that, you use the same methods to incorporate feedback that you used with your critique partner.

The difference is that you have more to lose, i.e. the agent or editor could pass on your story. This sucks, but that’s how it is. Blindly following an agent’s advice won’t necessarily get you anywhere, either. Therefore, it’s even more important that you assess an agent’s feedback with a critical eye, because she’s likely revealing flaws in your story that you need to address. BUT, that doesn’t mean you need to fix the problem in the exact way she suggests. She doesn’t know the story the way you do, and could unknowingly be introducing other problems. In fact, if you don’t take her advice and fix the problem in a different way, she’ll be impressed. It shows that you have a good head for revision, and she’ll be more inclined to want to work with you.

It’s complicated, but there’s not really a way around that. All we can do is write the best story we can, then stay true to it as we strive to make it better. A good agent or editor will recognize and appreciate that.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

October Book Giveaway

Another month, two more books. :)

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.
There is.
She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.
She's wrong.


ARC of Eve by Anna Carey
The year is 2032, sixteen years after a deadly virus—and the vaccine intended to protect against it—wiped out most of the earth’s population. The night before eighteen-year-old Eve’s graduation from her all-girls school she discovers what really happens to new graduates, and the horrifying fate that awaits her.
Fleeing the only home she’s ever known, Eve sets off on a long, treacherous journey, searching for a place she can survive. Along the way she encounters Caleb, a rough, rebellious boy living in the wild. Separated from men her whole life, Eve has been taught to fear them, but Caleb slowly wins her trust...and her heart. He promises to protect her, but when soldiers begin hunting them, Eve must choose between true love and her life.

To enter, fill out the form below, then come back here on Saturday, October 29th to see if you've won. Good luck!

100 Book Reading Challenge: October

How is everyone's reading going? I'm on such a roller coaster. I get lots of reading done, then none. But I've been doing lots of writing, so it's all good. :)

Here are the two books I'm giving away this month. Happy reading!

The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch
The wars that followed The Collapse nearly destroyed civilization. Now, twenty years later, the world is faced with a choice—rebuild what was or make something new.
Stephen Quinn, a quiet and dutiful fifteen-year-old scavenger, travels Post-Collapse America with his Dad and stern ex-Marine Grandfather. They travel light. They keep to themselves. Nothing ever changes. But when his Grandfather passes suddenly and Stephen and his Dad decide to risk it all to save the lives of two strangers, Stephen's life is turned upside down. With his father terribly injured, Stephen is left alone to make his own choices for the first time.
Stephen’s choices lead him to Settler's Landing, a lost slice of the Pre-Collapse world where he encounters a seemingly benign world of barbecues, baseball games and days spent in a one-room schoolhouse. Distrustful of such tranquility, Stephen quickly falls in with Jenny Tan, the beautiful town outcast. As his relationship with Jenny grows it brings him into violent conflict with the leaders of Settler's Landing who are determined to remake the world they grew up in, no matter what the cost.
 
ARC of You Against Me by Jenny Downham
If someone hurts your sister and you're any kind of man, you seek revenge, right? If your brother's been accused of a terrible crime and you're the main witness, then you banish all doubt and defend him. Isn't that what families do? When Mikey's sister claims a boy assaulted her at a party, his world of work and girls begins to fall apart. When Ellie's brother is charged with the crime, but says he didn't do it, her world of revision, exams and fitting in at a new school begins to unravel. When Mikey and Ellie meet, two worlds collide.

To enter, fill out the form below. You may join this challenge at any time. Also, you must follow these rules, or your entry will be disqualified:
  1. One URL per entry, and that URL must directly link to a book review. A general link to your blog or Goodreads profile isn't specific enough (I simply don't have the time to go sifting through the hundred or so of these entries to figure out what everyone is reading).
  2. You may enter as many times as you like, BUT you must keep to the one URL per entry rule. Otherwise your entry will only count as one.
  3. You must have reviewed the book IN OCTOBER. Past reviews don't count.
FYI--to get to a direct link to your Goodreads reviews, click on the title of the book, and then click on the "My Review" heading just above where you type in your review. A link to your profile will render your entry invalid.

Come back here on Monday, October 31st to see if you've won. Good luck!!