Saturday, May 30, 2009

Winners of the May book giveaway!

As always, I wrote out each and every name in a list, adding extra entries where applicable, assigned each entry a number, then used to generate random numbers to find the winners.

And, the winners are.... *drumroll*




Congratulations to all the winners!! Send me a note at tabitha at tabithaolson dot com with your address, and I'll send them along.

And don't forget to stop by next saturday to find out what's being given away. Hint: there will be four books and four winners, and interviews with two amazing authors!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

How's your reading going?

So, for those of you doing the 50 Book Challenge this year, or any kind of book-reading challenge, how are you doing? Are you keeping up? Are you keeping a list? Inquiring minds want to know!

I found this great meme on

The following list of books teens love, books teens should read, and books adults who serve teens should know about was compiled IN ABSOLUTELY NO SCIENTIFIC MANNER and should be taken with a very large grain of salt.
Put an "X" next to the books you've read
Put a "+" next to the books you LOVE
Put a "#" next to the books you plan on reading
Tally your "X"s at the bottom
Share with your friends!

1. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy / Douglas Adams #
2. Kit's Wilderness / David Almond
3. Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian / Sherman Alexie #
4. Speak / Laurie Halse Anderson +
5. Feed / M.T. Anderson X
6. Flowers in the Attic / V.C. Andrews
7. 13 Reasons Why / Jay Asher X
8. Am I Blue? / Marion Dane Bauer (editor)
9. Audrey Wait! / Robin Benway
10. Weetzie Bat / Francesca Lia Block
11. Tangerine / Edward Bloor +
12. Forever / Judy Blume
13. What I Saw and How I Lied / Judy Blundell X
14. Tyrell / Coe Booth
15. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants / Ann Brashares X
16. A Great and Terrible Beauty / Libba Bray X
17. The Princess Diaries / Meg Cabot X
18. The Stranger / Albert Camus
19. Ender's Game / Orson Scott Card X
20. Postcards from No Man's Land / Aidan Chambers
21. Perks of Being a Wallflower / Stephen Chbosky X
22. And Then There Were None / Agatha Christie
23. Gingerbread / Rachel Cohn
24. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist / Rachel Cohn and David Levithan X
25. Artemis Fowl (series) / Eoin Colfer X
26. The Hunger Games / Suzanne Collins X
27. The Midwife's Apprentice / Karen Cushman X
28. The Truth About Forever / Sarah Dessen X
29. Little Brother / Cory Doctorow +
30. A Northern Light / Jennifer Donnelly X
31. Tears of a Tiger / Sharon Draper
32. The House of the Scorpion / Nancy Farmer #
33. Breathing Underwater / Alex Flinn
34. Stardust / Neil Gaiman X
35. Annie on My Mind / Nancy Garden
36. What Happened to Cass McBride / Gail Giles X
37. Fat Kid Rules the World / K.L. Going #
38. Lord of the Flies / William Golding X
39. Looking for Alaska / John Green #
40. Bronx Masquerade / Nikki Grimes
41. Out of the Dust / Karen Hesse X
42. Hoot / Carl Hiaasen X
43. The Outsiders / S.E. Hinton X
44. Crank / Ellen Hopkins
45 The First Part Last / Angela Johnson +
46. Blood and Chocolate / Annette Curtis Klause #
47. Arrow's Flight / Mercedes Lackey
48. Hattie Big Sky / Kirby Larson #
49. To Kill a Mockingbird / Harper Lee
50. Boy Meets Boy / David Levithan
51. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks / E. Lockhart +
52. The Giver / Lois Lowry X
53. Number the Stars / Lois Lowry #
54. Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie / David Lubar #
55. Inexcusable / Chris Lynch X
56. The Earth, My Butt and Other Big, Round Things / Carolyn Mackler X
57. Dragonsong / Anne McCaffrey X
58. White Darkness / Geraldine McCaughrean X
59. Sold / Patricia McCormick #
60. Jellicoe Road / Melina Marchetta X
61. Wicked Lovely / Melissa Marr +
62. Twilight / Stephenie Meyer X
63. Dairy Queen / Catherine Murdock +
64. Fallen Angels / Walter Dean Myers
65. Monster / Walter Dean Myers #
66. Step From Heaven / An Na
67. Mama Day / Gloria Naylor
68. The Keys to the Kingdom (series) / Garth Nix X
69. Sabriel / Garth Nix #
70. Airborn / Kenneth Oppel
71. Eragon / Christopher Paolini X
72. Hatchet / Gary Paulsen #
73. Life As We Knew It / Susan Beth Pfeffer X
74. The Golden Compass / Phillip Pullman X
75. Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging / Louise Rennison
76. The Lightning Thief / Rick Riordan #
77. Always Running: La Vida Loca / Luis Rodriguez
78. how i live now / Meg Rosoff #
79. Harry Potter (series) / J.K. Rowling +
80. Holes / Louis Sachar +
81. Catcher in the Rye / J. D. Salinger X
82. Push / Sapphire
83. Persepolis / Marjane Satrapi
84. Unwind / Neil Shusterman +
85. Coldest Winter Ever / Sister Souljah
86. Stargirl / Jerry Spinelli +
87. Chanda's Secrets / Allan Stratton
88. Tale of One Bad Rat / Brian Talbot
89. Rats Saw God / Rob Thomas
90. Lord of the Rings / J.R.R. Tolkien X
91. Stuck in Neutral / Terry Trueman
92. Gossip Girl / Cecily Von Ziegesar X
93. Uglies / Scott Westerfeld +
94. Every Time a Rainbow Dies / Rita Williams-Garcia
95. Pedro and Me / Judd Winick
96. Hard Love / Ellen Wittlinger
97. American Born Chinese / Gene Luen Yang #
98. Elsewhere / Gabrielle Zevin #
99. I am the Messenger / Markus Zusak X
100. The Book Thief / Markus Zusak X

How many I have read: 47
How many I plan to read: 17
How many I need to research: 36
What about you?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day!!

To those of you in the States, hope you have a safe, fun, and happy Memorial Day!

I'm not sure how this happened, but this holiday, which is supposed to be for remembering those who have fought and died for our country, has turned into the official grilling day of the year. Our grill isn't hooked up yet, so we're making an Indian feast instead. Then we're going to take the training wheels off my oldest son's bicycle...good think I stocked up on Bactine. :)

Have a great day, everyone! Hope you have great weather (it looks like today might be a good one in Chicago)!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Plot Summary: Normal, sixteen-year-old Amal is an Australian-born Muslim Palestinian. All on her own, she makes the decision to start wearing the hijab (head-covering) full-time. Her parents, teachers, friends, and people on the street all have a reaction – some good, some not so good. But she stands by her decision to embrace her faith and all that it is, even if it makes her different from everyone else.

In this day and age, with so much ‘Islamic Terrorism’ all over the news, a story like this is very refreshing. None of the girls in Amal’s story are made to wear the hijab. The two girls who do, Amal and Leila, do so of their own choosing because they’re strong in their Muslim faith. I think that’s a fabulous message to send in this day and age.

At times, Amal seemed a bit too introspective and wise for her age, which made the prose seem more message-y than story, but it was never heavy-handed. And this is still a story I recommend.

As with all my book discussions, there are SPOILERS below.

I like how Amal comes to her decision about wearing the hijab, and how she sees it as believing in yourself so completely that you can withstand the constant questions and taunts. Her example is Leila, who is always ready with a quip or comeback whenever someone makes fun of her hijab.

I would have liked to see a bit more, though. Throughout the entire novel, we never find out what the hijab means to Amal. We learn that it’s part of the Muslim religion, and that it makes her feel closer to God, but we never learn why.

When an avid Christian wears a cross around her neck, she does so for a reason. The cross is more than just the symbol of Christianity. It’s a reminder of what Jesus went through when he was crucified, how he was tortured, and all the pain and suffering he brought on himself so that the world could have eternal salvation. Wearing a symbol like that around your neck will probably elicit a more personal response than “it’s the symbol of Christianity.”

For Muslims, it’s traditional for women to cover their heads (at least). But so many practicing Muslims aren’t necessarily following this, so there must be a reason motivating the ones who do. What motivates Amal to put on the hijab full-time? What about it gives her enough inner strength to deal with the taunts that she knows are coming? How does wearing it make her feel closer to God? We never find out these things, and I think this is a major short-coming in the story.

Other than that, this is a well-rounded story about Muslim culture, the different things that women face both within their families and outside of them. And I was glad to see that there were plenty of respectable Muslim boys in this story, with only one jerk. Leila’s brother isn’t the way he is because he’s Muslim, it’s because of bad parenting. I’ve seen plenty of non-Muslim boys turn out that way because the parents didn’t know how to check their son.

Overall, this is a good story that’s worth reading. Especially now.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

more Virtual Writer's Conference

In case anyone is interested, here's my contribution to the Virtual Writer's Conference:

It's an article on the different ways Voice manifests within a story.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Virtual Writer's Conference!

Today launches the first of the four-day Virtual Writer's Conference!

Organized and hosted by author Gayle Trent, there is an amazing line up of authors, editors, publicists, and agents contributing articles about everything related to publishing and writing. The conference goes from today, May 19th, through friday, May 22nd. Be sure to check it out!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Interview with CK Kelly Martin!

Welcome to another author interview at Writer Musings! Today, we've got the fabulous CK Kelly Martin, author of I KNOW IT'S OVER and ONE LONELY DEGREE. Now, let's get to it!

Tell us about ONE LONELY DEGREE.
One Lonely Degree is about a fifteen-year-old girl named Finn who has always felt like an outsider at school, a feeling which has been exacerbated by something that happened to her at a party. Coping with it is an ongoing problem and the only person who even knows about what happened is her best friend, Audrey, the one person she really trusts. Then Jersy, this guy Finn used to be friends with when she was really young, moves back to town. She has feelings for him but can’t deal with them or even admit to them so Audrey, who also likes him, starts going out with him. That’s fine for awhile because it means Finn can at least be friends with him but then Audrey goes away for the summer, just when Finn is having lots of family issues (and still trying to cope with her other problem), leaving Jersy as the closest person to her…and she still has those feelings for him.

Where were you when the idea fell into your head?
Usually I’m lying in bed at night and if I’m not too tired and am on the lookout to start a new book I begin hearing the voice of the central character in my head, talking about his or her situation. I can’t clearly remember this with Finn because I wrote One Lonely Degree back in 2004 and have written several books since then but it probably evolved that way. I do recall that I wanted to write a book about best friends set during summer vacation but that the idea morphed once I learned more about Finn.

How long did it take to get from the initial idea to a completed novel?
The manuscript itself took about six months but I usually think about a book for at least several weeks (scribbling down notes here and there and trying to get to know the character and what they’re dealing with) before I sit in front of the computer and really get down to it.

How did you come up with the title?
I was with my mom in the car and the DJ on the radio said it was one lonely degree out there. I think this was around about the time I was starting to think about Finn and I guess it seemed to fit with her emotional state. Whenever I hear something that sounds like a good title I jot it down because I can’t actually start writing a book unless I have a title for it that I’m crazy about. That’s probably backwards from the way lots of people of write. The other day I was checking something out on my website stats and I noticed that someone had arrived there by searching for “jasper fox gray I can’t see you anymore.” I assumed it was a YA novel, although I hadn’t heard of it before, and thought the title was intriguing so did my own search but no solid matches came up. My website was top of the list! So I don’t know, maybe I’m supposed to write a book called “Jasper Fox Gray I Can’t See You Anymore.” I am curious about the story behind that.

How much editing did your editor go through with you?
She told me both One Lonely Degree and I Know It’s Over were pretty clean so I don’t think it was really that much but it still felt intense at the time because I’m a very slow writer. There was some tightening of scenes, evening up of tones, and fleshing out of relationships and characters. The one thing I remember as being particularly difficult was the ending, which was entirely different in the draft I originally sent her – a bit darker. My editor didn’t think it felt right and once I’d really considered it, agonized over what direction to take it in, I decided she was right. I think part of the reason the original ending wasn’t more positive (not that it was negative!) was because I envisioned One Lonely Degree as being the first book in a trilogy and was going to continue dealing with some things in the second and third book. But I have another trilogy that I’d written previously which I’m still trying to sell so even before my editor saw One Lonely Degree I’d put aside the idea of continuing 1LD as a trilogy – in my experience trilogies have been a tough sell!

For your first book, how long did it take to find your editor?
I finished I Know It’s Over in May, 2003 and then promptly lost my agent, who didn’t like it, so had to start looking for representation again. I finally found a new agent in early 2006 and I Know It’s Over sold about six months after that. My agent is fantastic – she loved the book and when she couldn’t sell it in England (she’s in London) she hooked up with a NY agent to sell it on this side of the pond. So I if I start counting from when I finished the book it was three years before it found a home.

For your second book, did your editor automatically take it or was there a fear it would be rejected?
The deal was only for I Know It’s Over so the second book could’ve been rejected. I had two other YA novels (aside from the trilogy) finished when my editor bought I Know It’s Over and sent those for her to look at not long after I Know It’s Over sold. Luckily she wanted them both.

What was your favorite part of writing this book?
I loved writing the Finn and Jersy scenes. I thought they had such a nice vibe between them and I was just so fond of both of them.

Least favorite?
Rewriting that last chapter. I started to write towards a certain outcome and then realized I was forcing it – working against what Finn would actually do so I had to backtrack to the last point that felt true to her and work from there. I’m happy about the way it turned out but initially I had so much uncertainty about it and even later I struggled to get the chapter (especially the final couple scenes) exactly how I wanted. So in the end it was really rewarding but it was a hard slog to get there.

How does it feel to have your second book on the shelves? How is it different from your first book?
I’m so excited about it because I really love the Finn character (I feel quite protective of her too) and I know it’s a better book since my editor got a hold of it. Random House did such an amazing job with the cover that I feel like that alone could sell copies.

So I’m both every bit as excited and nervous about One Lonely Degree being on shelves as I was about I Know It’s Over but the sort of nerves attached to the book are a little different this time around because I’m conscious of the weight of readers’ expectations. A lot of the people that read I Know It’s Over seemed to like it and it received good reviews. I think there will be people who will automatically want to compare the two but One Lonely Degree is its own book.

How did you get in to writing for kids?
I’d wanted to write for a long, long time but just didn’t feel ready to get serious about it until I was preparing to leave Ireland to move back to Canada. Around that time I got hooked on Party of Five, which inspired me to try to write something for young people. As soon as I’d finished that first YA novel I couldn’t imagine writing for any other age group. Adolescence is both a scary and exciting time. There’s so much stuff to figure out and so many experiences you’re having for the first time and sometimes you’re out of your depth, not possessing the experience and maturity to deal with things in the way you’d like. There are so many basic things that aren’t within your control. It’s a challenging time but it can be really great too – the best of times, the worst of times.

What are you working on now?
I just finished revisions for my third book, The Lighter Side of Life and Death which is mainly about a sixteen year old guy’s love life (with his best friend Kat and then a twenty-three year old woman who is sort of a friend of the family). There’s something else in the works which I shouldn’t talk about yet as the paperwork is in progress but I do have yet another idea that I want to get started on which would also be YA but different than the ones I’ve done so far. I made a few notes on it before I had to switch my thoughts back to The Lighter Side so I need to read those over and get back into the main character’s mind.

Do you work on one project at a time, or multiple?
I’m really bad at multitasking and when I’m working on a book I get totally obsessed with it so I can’t imagine working on more than one project at a time. Having said that, obviously there are times I have to stop what I’m doing with the current project and revise a previous book or look at copy edits.

What does your writing space look like?
It’s a small den with a little computer desk and there’s a futon behind me, which I never actually sit on but just tend to pile stuff onto. There’s a bookshelf full of YA novels next to it and I have a file folder that I stick interesting newspaper articles in. Actually, there are clippings all over the apartment because it can take me awhile to get around to filing them. Anyway, I’ve divided this file folder by topic – there are sections on education, movies, music, science, crime, social criticism and more. But the funny thing is that I never really take out the articles to look at them again, I just keep stuffing more in there – in case I need to reference them someday, I guess. About twenty years ago I used to do a similar thing with a huge notebook I’d bought. I’d staple in whatever articles I found interesting.

There are also some posters up and a framed lobby card of The Beatles movie A Hard Day’s Night. I have a Jane Austen action figure hanging up quite close to the desk. She comes with a writing desk and quill pen but the package is still sealed so that she’ll stay in mint condition forever. I just love that there’s a Jane Austen action figure – had to have one.

How much do you read, and what are you reading now?
I normally read a couple of YA novels a week, if I’m not dealing with a deadline, but if I’m reading an adult novel it will take me a little longer because they’re generally lengthier. I have tons of books on my to read list and have fallen really far behind but at the moment I’m taking a break from YA. I finished The Retreat by Canadian author David Bergen a couple of days ago and now I’m reading Roddy Doyle’s collection of short stories, The Deportees. I’ve read several of his novels (most recently, Paula Spencer) but this collection would’ve probably interested me even if it didn’t have his name on it because it’s filled with stories about the immigrant experience in Ireland and I lived there during a time when there was hardly any immigration but much emigration. That began to change in my later years there but the majority of the change occurred after I was gone. I’m still very attached to Ireland (I became a citizen in 2001) and like to try to keep up with what’s happening over there as best I can. The story I’m in the middle of at the moment is about Jimmy Rabbitte, a character from The Commitments, now thirty-six and forming a new band to manage. One of the unusual things about these stories is that because they were originally written for a magazine they’re all in 800-word chapters.

Thanks so much for answering all these questions! So informative, and great to hear from an author with more than one book on the shelf. :)

If you want to see more of what Ms. Martin is doing, check out her website at For a chance to win a copy of these books, go here and leave a comment. Also, here's the book trailer for ONE LONELY DEGREE.

Friday, May 15, 2009

a cold? in the spring?

My youngest son gave me a cold. Where he got it is anyone's guess, but kids are little petri dishes anyway so it's not surprising.

But now I have it, and my head feels like it's going to explode. And I think I'm going to cough up a lung. Fun.

So, pardon me while I go curl up in a ball and wait for this thing to go away. :)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The 39 Clues, first three books

Sorry for the lateness of this post. I just realized that I never scheduled it for the usual 6am. Oops. :) Anyway, here it is.

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.

The premise behind this series is fantastic. I wish I’d thought of it, actually. It’s a fabulous adventure story that I think any kid would love.

Scholastic did something a bit unconventional with this release. Instead of all the books coming from one author, they’re coming from many authors. Which, I think, has both good and bad aspects.

Good: This allows Scholastic to release the books quicker – every few months instead of one a year. It makes the fans happy because they don’t have to wait to find out what’s going to happen next. Plus, that one author won’t burn out on the story.

Bad: Different authors have different visions of the story and characters. This has an effect on the flavor and style of each book, which can be confusing.

For example, I’ve read the first three books so far (the fourth is coming out this summer, which I intend to read). And, with each book, I’ve noticed something consistent: the characters are not the same people. Sure, they have the same habits, faults, and mostly the same quirks, plus the same basic relationship with each other. But they’re not exactly the same people. Their dialog, mannerisms, reactions, and thought processes are different.

I’ve had to readjust to all of the characters with each book, especially this last one. Dan was so different from the previous books that I thought one of the other characters (Jonah) had appeared by mistake.

Still, these books are quite enjoyable for those who like puzzles and adventure. If you read them, just keep in mind that you’ll have to relearn who the characters are with each book.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Baking a Layer, Manuscript

I’ve been hearing writers talk about writing a manuscript in layers. Lady Glamis at the Innocent Flower did some great posts on this, and Jacqui Robbins just put the skeleton of her novel together.

My most recent WIP, a middle grade that I started seven years ago, is putting itself together in a similar way. Except mine is more like baking and decorating a cake.

When you set out to bake a cake, first you need to make sure you have the right ingredients: eggs, flour, sugar, butter, etc. Without the right ingredients, the cake won’t turn out right. Once you have your ingredients, you mix and bake them until you have fluffy, golden layers of yummy.

The same thing is true with a story. When you set out to write one, you need the right ingredients: characters, plot, conflict, tension, voice, etc. It has taken me seven years to find the right ingredients and bake them in my head until everything solidified into something that made sense. Now, I’m working on the next step: assembly.

When baking a layer cake, once it’s baked you have to let it cool. If you put frosting on a hot cake, the cake will be too fragile and the frosting will pull it apart. If you wait until it’s warm (not hot), then the cake won’t fall apart. However, the frosting might melt and ooze off the cake. Then you have to go back and fix it, and the result isn’t always pretty. : ) So, you need to wait until the cake is completely cool, and then both the cake and frosting will mesh well.

My current WIP has been exactly like this. I had to let this story bake in my head for seven years, and then cool off completely before I could start putting it together on paper. I’m not sure why this story took so long to solidify in my head, but it did. And now, I’m working on gluing the layers together with frosting.

To put cake layers together, it requires a liberal amount of frosting on the bottom layer, then lining up the top layer so it’s even with the bottom. It’s not too difficult, nor has it been difficult to put my story together on paper. I think that’s because it’s been baking and cooling for so long. : ) But when it comes to the decorating, that’s a different story.

Decorating a cake requires yet another layer of frosting on top, but this is harder than the layer you put between the cakes. The outside layer must look smooth, and if you’re not careful then cake crumbs can get swept up into the frosting. That looks terrible, especially with chocolate cake. It requires care, precision, and concentration. Frosting can lump too high in places, or it can be too thin. To get it right, you have to take a step back and look at it objectively.

My story is the same. Once I finish putting it all together, then I have to go back over it and add the pieces that I know are missing, look for the thin areas I didn’t see the first time around, and trim the areas that are too lumpy.

This creates a solid base for the next step: decoration, or, in my story, word choice. This is probably the hardest step.

For cake decoration, I’m going to be hunched over this cake for an hour or two, squeezing drops of frosting in just the right places to create the greatest visual effect. When I’m done, my eyes are crossed and my back aches, but I’m thrilled with the end result. Which makes it worth all that effort.

It’s no different with my story. When I reach this point, I agonize over every single word I’ve used. If I let myself get caught up in word choice earlier, then I might have wiped out all that work as I finished putting the different layers of foundation in place, so I wait until the end to do this. And then, I tackle my story by hunching over it for days or weeks on end. I look at every sentence placement, word usage, and paragraph location. By the time I’m done, I’m cross-eyed and my hand is cramping like the dickens. But I’m thrilled with the end result, so all that work is worth the effort.

But I'm not there yet. In fact, I'm still putting my manuscript together, but I should be putting on the outside layer of frosting soon. Perhaps by the end of the month...we'll see. :)

I hope this hasn’t sounded silly. I just equate writing to things I understand, and cakes are one of those things. :)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Trigger by Susan Vaught

Plot Summary: Jersey Hatch seemed to have it all together—he played sports, was popular, had a great girlfriend, best friend, and supportive parents. But when he emerges from a recuperative care center, all that is gone, his legs and hands don’t work right, his mouth says every word that pops into his brain, and he has to write down his thoughts so that he remembers even the most basic directions and details. Through it all, one question haunts him: why did he try to kill himself?

This book is an amazing window into a damaged mind. The author is a neuropsychologist, and it shows. The actions and reactions of Jersey Hatch are so real it’s uncanny. I found myself cheering for him, feeling sorry for him, and getting completely baffled by everything that was jumbled into his brain. All at the same time.

I was a little confused by his ramblings at first, but after I figured out more of Jersey then it became part of the experience. And it was a good experience. I thought Jersey’s journey to discovering why he shot himself was realistic and heart-rending. It was serious, sad, funny, and satisfying. Though Jersey is seventeen, he doesn't sound that old, and that's because of his brain injury. I thought the author captured this voice very, very well.

As with all my book discussions, there are SPOILERS below.

Jersey Hatch can’t help but say whatever pops into his mind. Whether it’s the state of his house, socks, or frog farts, if he thinks it then most likely he’s going to say it. He has to concentrate incredibly hard in order to keep it in.

When he discovers his reason for shooting himself, it’s a bit anti-climactic. But it’s supposed to be that way, because Jersey had blown too many little things out of proportion. I think that’s fairly common with suicide victims – they perceive their situations as the end of the world, even if they’re not. And I found it completely believable that Jersey would consider finishing the job he started a year ago, except doing it right this time.

The only thing that gave me pause was the lack of a counselor. I’m not in the business, but I’m not so sure a recovery clinic would send a suicide victim back into the real world without a counselor to go to should things get tough. After all, Jersey almost offed himself again, and I would think plenty of suicide victims would be thinking the same thing. But other than that, this was a fantastic book. One I definitely recommend.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Interview with C. Lee McKenzie!

Welcome to an interview with debut author C. Lee McKenzie! Her book, SLIDING ON THE EDGE, hit the shelves on April 27, and I was fortunate enough to read an ARC. Thanks, Lee!!

What was the inspiration behind your idea?
Unfortunately, it was a news article with statistics that were very disturbing. “Nearly 1 in 5 students at two Ivy League schools say they have purposely injured themselves by cutting, burning or other methods, a disturbing phenomenon that psychologists say they are hearing about more often.” When I read that I remember saying out loud, “Something’s wrong.” And those are the words that begin my book.

Did you already know so much about horses, or did you research it all?
I love horses, but most of my knowledge came from friends and relatives who not only love them, but also own and ride them. I’m in a rural community where horses are nearby, so I have a lot of contacts with the information I needed to be accurate in the book.

What prompted you to tell Kay’s story alongside Shawna’s?
I love connecting generations. I feel we live in such an isolated society here in the U.S. We often don’t connect with our grandparents and when we do we don’t really have the time to know them. I never thought of my grandmother as someone who once was sixteen or twenty, who made mistakes and had regrets. I never thought of her as anyone other than my grandmother. I wish I had, so I gave Shawna the chance I missed.

How many drafts did you go through?
This question sent back to my “archives.” I did three drafts to submission. Somehow I thought it was more. It seemed so. Maybe it was just that I wrote a lot at four in the morning that year. I do six a.m. without complaint, but four was hard.

How many drafts did your editor go through with you?
None. We went to line edits after the manuscript was accepted. Those were booooring!

How long did it take to find your editor?
Well, let’s see. I sent SLIDING ON THE EDGE to three editors and one agent early in ‘07. I never heard back from any of them. Come to think of it, they owe me stamps! When I sent it to WestSide in November of that year, I heard back in two days with a request for a full. Talk about heart-stopping moments. “You really want to read the whole thing?” I didn’t ask the editor that, but I said it out loud to the computer.

Are you agented?
I am “agent less”—sort of doing this publishing-marketing thing like a paint-by-numbers kit.

How do you get to know your characters?
Once I start writing a book or any story for that matter, I carry the characters with me everywhere: I talk to them at the dinner table, while I’m hiking, in my sleep until they become people. Once I know them (what they eat, how they walk, the way their voices sound, what their favorite color is) I can put their stories down. But don’t ask me to do that on paper. I’m a bust at that!

What was your favorite part of writing this book? Least favorite?
I loved the Kenny parts. I don’t know why, except he was such a favorite person to live with. I miss Kay and I miss Shawna, but I really miss Kenny. I had trouble writing the scene when Shawna actually confronts Monster. It scared me. In fact, I had to write that sitting alone away from my computer and away from my home. I think I wrote that scene on a beach. The beach has always been a place I go when I feel down or scared.

How does it feel to have your first book on the shelves?
It’s rather amazing. And I think the first time has to be quite special. I don’t know yet because I don’t have a second experience to compare this one with. I do know that every once in a while, I had to touch my Advanced Reading Copies just to feel them. I also had a very hard time giving my last ARC away.

How did you get in to writing for kids?
I’m not too sure. I’m not even sure how I started writing fiction in the first place. But I’m really happy that I came to it. It’s one of the most rewarding, frustrating, exhilarating, ego-busting experiences I’ve ever had.

What are you working on now?
It’s a YA novel. I’ve titled it Princess of Las Pulgas. I started writing it in January of last year and I’m going through a final edit before I submit it. I’m not sure if my editor will take it, but she has asked for a full based on my synopsis. Keep your fingers crossed for me.
(my fingers are duly crossed, Lee)

Do you work on one project at a time, or multiple?
Too many, I’m afraid. Currently, I’m re-writing two Middle Grade novels, finishing up on Princess, and have submitted a non-fiction piece and a short story to a magazine. I think it would be easier to focus on one thing at a time, but my mind doesn’t seem to work that way, so I’ve given up trying to make it behave.

Are you a planner, or do you write by the seat of your pants?
I think you get from what I’ve said that I’m a “by the seat of my pants” kind of writer. Every time someone gives me one of those grids to analyze characters or to plot the story I get exactly one thing down; then I go for a walk.

Are you a paper person, or the computer-only-type?
Both. Most of my writing is on the computer. It makes revision (which I consider the most important part of writing) so easy. But I often write in my notebook. Sometimes I find changing between the two is freeing. I like the ideas that come when I’m outside in the garden or on a trail. They often produce more exciting scenes than the ones I’ve written at my desk.

What are your favorite reference books? And why?
If you mean for facts, grammar, punctuation, I dive into Strunk and White when I need some specific grammar or punctuation point. They’re right to the point and quick with the information. My dictionary is still my best friend at times. I love reading the etymology of words. If I’m stuck on more global issues like building a scene or developing dialog I often go to Stein on Writing. He’s brilliant and he gives examples that make grasping these concepts so easy.

Thanks, Lee, for taking the time to share all this with us!

If you'd like to see more of Lee and her book, here's some great links:

Interview with Cynthea Liu

Saturday, May 02, 2009

May Book Giveaway

Good morning, all!

This month, I'm giving away three books!! Yes, three! SLIDING ON THE EDGE by C. Lee McKenzie, plus ONE LONELY DEGREE and I KNOW IT'S OVER by C. K. Kelly Martin. Also, look for an interview with the authors later in the month!

-To enter, leave a comment on this post.
-For one extra entry, post a link to this contest on your website or blog (or some other public forum), then let me know about it here. One entry per link, which means you can post a link to multiple locations and get multiple entries.
-For another extra entry, become a follower and then let me know about it here (or let me know you already are a follower).

I'll randomly select the winners (there will be three) on saturday, May 30th.

Good luck!!