Thursday, September 30, 2010

Book Recommendation - Revolution

By Jennifer Donnelly


Blurb from Goodreads: "BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.
PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.

Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present"

Andi's ten-year-old brother was killed in a tragic accident two years ago, and she blames herself. Overdosing on antidepressants is the only thing that helps her get through the day -- most days. Some days she finds herself standing in front of oncoming traffic, or one step from the edge of a quick fate. Andi's absentee father pays her no attention, and her mother is insane with grief. There's nobody left in this world for Andi. Until she finds Alex.

Alex lived during the French Revolution, she was 17 when she wrote the diary Andi found. Seventeen and sure she was about to die. She tells a story of desperation and hope -- tells of how she risked her very life to save someone she loved. A ten-year-old boy -- the King's son and heir -- who was locked away in a tower to literally suffer to death by the revolutionists.

It's a breathtakingly painful story, but it is so beautiful.

Andi's progression through the book, the way she rises and plummets over the emotional roller coaster of grief are so dead on.

It is a sad story, yes, but not overwhelmingly so. There is hope -- even when everything is lost, still there is hope for Andi. Hope for Alex.

I didn't know what to expect when I picked this book up. The first chapter was rather off-putting. I didn't understand Andi's character or why she was so incredibly depressed and angry. She is so, so angry. Plus the pretentious kids she goes to school with -- well, I could live without them. But by the second chapter I was hooked and flying through pages.

This is a really thick book. 496 pages thick. But it is worth every single minute it takes to read.

Revolution is set to debut on October 12. Mark your calendars -- this is a must read!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday

Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic:

What's the best book you read in September?

*checks blog archive to remember what I read this month* *gasps* *groans because there's absolutely no way I could ever choose a favorite*

I read so many good books in September! How am I supposed to choose?

I mean, there was The DUFF, Paranormalcy, and Mockingjay!! How do you expect me to choose from all the awesome??

I can't -- no, won't. Instead I'll tell you to check back tomorrow for a review on a SUPER FANTASTIC ARC I read this week. I'm not telling which one until tomorrow.

Are you excited yet? You should be.

What are the best books you guys read this month? My nook needs more books! lol

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Plan of Attack

Who all here as queried before? Let's see a show of hands.

I'm trying to devise a plan before I start sending queries out all willy-nilly into the world. There are several different strategies I've heard.

  1. Just get them out. All at once or within close succession, however you can.
  2. Send out bursts...maybe five or so at a time.
  3. Send out 10 and wait for responses from them all, then send another 10.

I don't know. *five second panic attack*

Why am I so terrified to start sending queries? I keep trying to come up with things to do instead. I must have read my query letter 50 times in the last week. I can't find a single word I want to change anymore. The lovely KO has already finished her read-through and gave very positive feedback. It didn't take me any time to add a couple touches where she recommended.

There's nothing left to change! *yet another mini panic attack*

Okay, taking deep breaths now. Which plan of attack would you follow? My brain is in shut-down-I-refuse-to-make-a-decision mode.

Monday, September 27, 2010


I did it. I met my goal. I finished all my edits on Emerald's Keeper and sent them off to the lovely KO for one last beta read!

I even made a nice detailed spreadsheet to put all the agent information in and track my queries.

Holy freaking cow.

I finished my edits in a restaurant on Saturday afternoon. The waitress had obviously noticed the large manuscript I had laid out on the table next to my laptop.

"What class is that for?" she asked.

I hesitated. "Um, well, I actually kinda wrote it. It's my novel."

Her eyes widened and her mouth dropped open a little. "No way. That's, like, every person's dream! And you, like, did it!"

I smile, uncomfortable with the attention. "Yeah, I guess so."

Something hit me at that moment. A new feeling of anxiety. This is really happening. I'm really about to start querying agents.

Holy freaking cow.

One day, sometime in the not-so-distant future I could have a book in bookstores. People like that waitress could read it. They could love it or they could hate it, but either way my words would be out in the world for anyone to read.

Pardon me while I have a panic attack. (Just kidding. Kinda.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Fun - Pitching

I'm sure you can all guess this, but I'm still gathering info on pitching to an agent. Lo and behold on Monday morning what should pop into my Google Reader but another more than helpful post by agent Rachelle Gardner. Her posts are always spot on. Here is the list she gives for questions you need to have the answers to in order to give a good pitch. Some of these I really would never have thought of.

11 Questions for Crafting a Pitch:
(According to Rachelle Gardner)

1. What genre is your book?

2. What’s most unique or special about your book?

3. Who is the protagonist and what’s the most interesting thing about him or her?

4. Who is the antagonist and how is he/she standing in the way of the protagonist’s goal?

5. What conflict, dilemma or choice does the protagonist face?

6. What are the consequences of the choice or conflict?

7. What is the main event that gets the story started?

8. What are the main points of action that drive the plot?

9. What is the setting of the story?

10. What is the interesting backstory that affects your characters in the current story?

11. What is the book’s theme?

Pretty awesome, right? Now to get to work answering them. ;)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

About Those Edits

With heavy revisions done comes the final phase for a WIP -- the edits. The time where you get to spend hours debating over comma placement, verb usage, and page formatting.


So, not the most exciting part of writing is it? No. Admittedly not.

My first thought when I got to this stage was: How can I make this more exciting?

The answer? Having the whole MS printed and bound. It has a cover page and all! It cost me about $30 at Office Depot to have the whole thing printed on good quality paper, comb bound, with card stock front and back covers. Not too shabby. I also bought myself a new red pen.

I get so excited over office supplies. I can't help it.

Something I read a while back that I put to use for these edits -- before I printed the pages, I changed the font. I had read on once that changing the font can trick your eyes into seeing more errors because you're not used to the way it looks.

It works! For real!

What do you all do to get excited over edits? Just push through or try and make it fun?

It's really so interesting to go back and read the whole story through. There were even parts that surprised me -- that I'd forgotten about. It's surreal. I still find it odd to say, "I've written a book." To go back and read the whole thing -- well, it's just plain amazing.

Now, back to being a nervous wreck about making sure it is perfect. My goal is to have it done by Sunday so it can go through one final beta read-through before the conference.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday

Time for Road Trip Wednesday!!

Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and we answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic:

If you went to school with your characters, would you be friends?

In Emerald's Keeper fourteen year old Mandy is a freshman in high school. Honestly, she's the kind of friend I wish I'd found when I was fourteen.

Believe it or not I was a painfully shy teenager. I didn't start opening up until I was maybe a Junior, but more-so as a Senior in high school. So if I could have mustered up the courage to even approach Mandy -- yeah, I'd have been her friend.

My newest WIP is about a sixteen year old girl named Kate. Now Kate is the type of girl I'd have wished I was friends with. She speaks her mind and isn't afraid to tell someone off. She's fun and spunky...everything I wanted to be as a teen but didn't have the guts to pull off. So I'd have pretty much worshiped her from afar.

What about you guys? Would you have been friends with your characters in high school?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tipsy Tuesday - Pitch Heaven

I must give credit for the amazing content of this post to Susan. She directed me to Rachelle Gardner's blog where I found these awesome tips.

As promised, this is my first installment of oh-my-god-I've-got-to-pitch-to-an-agent-and-am-FREAKING-OUT. Catchy title don't you think? lol

Okay, so Rachelle has this wonderful post with tips for a successful pitch. (To read her whole post click the link)

First thing she says is not to dive right into your pitch when you sit down. Take a minute to introduce yourself, ask if the agent is having a nice morning, whatever. If you take just a bit of time for some small talk it will really calm you down.

I totally agree with this. I have, actually, met with an agent before, and can say from experience that the small talk gave me a second to readjust my mind so that I wasn't shaky and nervous. It also helped to have made some comments on the agent's blog, so I was able to reference a specific post and have that common ground between us.

Rachelle also says to be sure you have a tagline (20 words or less that encompass your story) ready at a moments notice. You've all got taglines right? They're handy for your query too.

The pitch. Rachelle says it should be 2 to 3 minutes long, and be sure to allow the agent to ask questions as you speak. That means it needs to be more a basis of conversation than a memorized speech.

Speaking of questions, be ready to answer them. The agent may ask things like:

What published author would you compare your writing to?
How does your story end?
What is your character's motivation?
Have you worked with a critique group?

Wow, so that's just a brief overview of Rachelle's tip-packed post. I hope you find the information as helpful as I have! Have you all read any particularly helpful posts on pitching? Or do you have any tips you've learned first-hand? If so, share in the comments!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mommy Monday - Meanings

So, how many three-year-olds have you met that can sing Bob Marley's Three Little Birds?

Super Spawn can. The whole way through. lol

We listen to Marley a lot in our house. One Love was my brother's song that he lived by...even had a One Love tattoo. So, naturally, we think it is the coolest thing on the planet that Super Spawn is randomly spouting off Marley lyrics.

This morning, as I sat here munching my english muffin trying to decide what to blog about, that song got me thinking. Do you write with a deeper meaning, or just for the story?

Let me explain what I mean. Many of the scenes in my stories have much deeper significance than just in the story itself. Phrases that I use, certain reactions from the characters, etc, may come from experiences that I've had or actual events in my own life.

The title of one of my WIPs is The Clock May Soon Be Still, which is a line from a poem my brother wrote. That whole MS is based around his poem.

I guess I'm just wondering who else does that. Do you think it makes a story stronger, or puts it in danger of being "too close" to the writer so they don't see the flaws?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Fun - Preparing for a Conference

So I'm going to a conference in October. It's only about four hours from me, so it's not something I have to make major travel plans for. I do, however, like to over analyze and be sure that I will have absolutely everything I could possibly need during the conference.

Hotel -- check! I would always recommend staying in the hotel where the conference is being held. I made my reservation months ago to be sure I'd have a spot.

Transportation -- check! Has car, will drive! The benefit of going to a conference rather close to home.

I also ordered a new tote bag for my netbook and conference materials. The last tote I bought for a conference has been used so much day-by-day that I'm holding my breath for the strap to snap in half. I ordered a Nine West Hobo that is big enough for all my stuff...I can't wait to get it!

The biggest and scariest thing I have to plan for is my pitch session. Yes, I'm taking the plunge and meeting with an agent to pitch her my book. AAAAAAAAA!!!! (That was from excitement and nerves. Sorry. lol)

It took all of that for me to say this...over the next few weeks I'm going to be doing posts about pitching to an agent. Everything that I learn, I'm going to pass on to all of you. So if anyone out there has a pitch session coming up soon, well, you'll have lots of resources right here!

Now I want to know -- What kind of things do you do to prepare for a conference?

I make lists. Packing lists, to-do lists, shopping lists, lists of lists. And I make them over and over to settle my nerves.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Book Recommendation - The DUFF

By Kody Keplinger

Blurb from Goodreads: "Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn't think she's the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She's also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her "Duffy," she throws her Coke in his face. But things aren't so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley. Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out that Wesley isn't such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she's falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone."

Okay, I get all the hype now. I devoured this book. One sitting. Stayed up waaaaay too late on a work night and seriously regretted it the next morning to finish this book. It's awesome.

Bianca may make some poor choices, but the range of emotions that she goes through are the same as every other teenage girl.

She is relatable, likable, everything you want in a main character. She thinks the way we've all thought at one point or another, and expresses it the way some of us only wish we had.

The writing is stellar, and the language is -- well, totally teenager. Some of the slang she uses I've heard my 16-year-old brother use frequently. So I know it's spot on. lol Really, this is a top choice.

Love, love, love, LOVE this book. Seriously. Go buy it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday

Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic:

If you could travel back in time to any historical era for research purposes, which would you choose?

None of my WIPs are based in a historical era as of yet. So...I'm gonna go with my own interests for non-writing related purposes.

I'd really like to visit Victorian England. I mean...who wouldn't? lol I don't wanna stay...just see it first hand.

I'd also really like to visit Ireland during the Pagan era. I studied philosophy and religion in college and Pagans always fascinated me. I would really love to be able to see what things were really like and to talk to the people of the period. That would be SO amazing.

Aaand...I'd like to go to the 1600's and meet the portion of my family who climbed on a boat leaving from England to settle in Maryland. How flipping cool would that be? I know their names, but to be able to actually see them would be amazing. I wonder if you'd be able to see the relation. :)

What about you? Where would you go?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Again with the sick baby. Sorry guys. Super Spawn has strep throat :(

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mommy Monday - No!

Here's my thought. It seems like every weekend I have plans to finally sit down for a whole day uninterrupted and finish my final read-through.

But I have the "yes" gene.

I say yes way too much, and only because I don't want to make someone feel bad. Not because I mean it. This weekend for example. Wednesday evening I got a call inviting me to a birthday dinner Friday night. So, I said yes I'd love to come. And I enjoyed myself and celebrating a birthday is always necessary.

Then Saturday morning I got a call inviting me to the movies. Like, get up and go right now. It was with my sister and we haven't hung out as much lately as normal, so I reluctantly said yes. Did I have fun? Absolutely. Was that 5 hours wasted that I could have spent on my MS? Yep! *headdesk*

Saturday night there was a party at my BFF's house. Sunday I got up and had to clean the house and do laundry.

By the time I was able to do any edits, I only had time for a chapter.

I need to take lessons from Super Spawn. If you offer him something that he doesn't really want to do he says, "NO!" If you try to coerce him into it he says, "NO!" No matter what you say to him if the child doesn't want to do something he just by darn isn't going to do it.

Maybe there's a lesson there for mommy. If I really want to get through these final edits I need to start telling people (and myself) no.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Ramblings

Yep, the title made you nervous didn't it? It should. I'm a professional rambler...I could go on for days about nothing in particular. But I won't. Yet.

I've been working this week on reading through my final draft of Emerald's Keeper. Okay, so not really final, but my nearly-ready-to-query draft. How about that? lol I've also been working on a new story. One that made Susan, the bestest beta ever, shout, "Oh my gosh, I love it!!!!!!" And yes, she really used that many exclamation points.

Now I'm suffering from the dilemma of so many writers: How to divide my time, and transition between the two stories.

The new story is quite original and fresh, and the voice of the main characters keeps me enthralled. She's so much fun! All I want to do is write her story! It's new and shiny and exciting. But then there's lovely, wonderful Mandy and her already finished, just needs to be polished story. It's dark and dangerous, and Mandy goes through so many trials and so much loss.

The stories are nothing alike. Emerald is 3rd person past, and the new story is 1st person present. Their plots are completely different, the characters are nothing alike, the settings are nothing alike. lol So I'm having a hard time jumping between the two.

My question for you is this: How do you handle transitions between stories? Balancing your time between them? Do you make the new story wait until the other is perfect?

Advice, I need advice.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Book Recommendation - Paranormalcy

By Kiersten White

Blurb from Goodreads: "Weird as it is working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, Evie's always thought of herself as normal. Sure, her best friend is a mermaid, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals' glamours, but still. Normal. Only now paranormals are dying, and Evie's dreams are filled with haunting voices and mysterious prophecies. She soon realizes that there may be a link between her abilities and the sudden rash of deaths. Not only that, but she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures."

Bleeping awesome. That's what this book was. It's a quick, enjoyable read.

Evie is an enjoyable character that you can't help but like. I mean, she loves pink sparkly things. How much better does it get? It doesn't. She's witty and sweet, but also a badass when she needs to be.

Knock out a few zombies? No problem. Deal with Reth, the psycho faerie? Whoa, no way.

This book is great for escaping for a while. Kiersten pulls you in so you feel everything Evie does. The writing is smooth and makes it easy to breeze through chapters without realizing just how much you've read.

I suggest you all give it a try. It's nothing short of a really great story.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


No blog post today. Super Spawn is sick, so we're taking the day off. :)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Kinda off-topic rant

As most of you know, Super Spawn started 3k this month. I put him in a faith-based private school thinking of anywhere, he'd be well taken care of there.

I'm here to tell you otherwise.

Turns out, in the State of Florida at least, faith-based schools are exempt from licensing standards. They're exempt from following the Administrative Code, and the Department of Children and Family's code of Ethics.

Nobody will touch them.

I've had to learn all of this the hard way. Not only was my three-year-old son neglected by his teacher (who refused to allow him any kind of drink because he had a nap-time accident), but his rights were violated under the American's with Disabilities Act when his EpiPen was sent home with the wrong child.

I won't even go into how illegal and dangerous it was for them to send an injectable prescription medication home with the wrong child.

I'm not saying this to name names or point fingers. I simply want to inform parents of something I just learned that could have meant the difference between life and death for my child.

This may not be something that effects you right now. But one day, when you do have kids, it'll be something in the back of your mind to remember. Check on it. Make sure that you can really put your trust in the people who care for your child, and make sure if they break that trust you have someone to back you up and enforce safe measures for the children who remain in that school.

/End rant.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Friday Fun

This handwriting meme was passed to me by Glenna, and now I'm passing it to you!

1) Name & Blog Name2) Right or left handed, or both?3) Favorite letters to write?4) Least favorite?5) Write 'The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.' Not sure why some of these turned out blurry. I did them all the same way. Stupid scanner.6) Write the following words in CAPS: crab, humor, kaleidoscope, pajamas, gazillion.7.) Write your favorite lyrics. Again with the stupid scanner.
8) Tag seven people. Susan, LTM, Jess, Sandy, Alicia, Janet, and Jen!
9) Include a special drawing or doodle. Well, it was all colorful until Stupid Scanner got hold of it.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Book Recommendation - Mockingjay

By Suzanne Collins

Blurb from Goodreads: "My name is Katniss Everdeen. Why am I not dead? I should be dead. Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding."

Like I said yesterday: Unfreakingbelievable. It broke my heart, stomped on it, jumped up and down a few times, and handed me the tattered pieces back with a smile.

Through the whole book I kept thinking, "Oh my GOD she is SO GOOD at this!" Obviously that is directed at Collins. It's unbelievable the way she crafts a story and pulls you in. It is with such care and elegance that you don't even realize it happened until you're wondering how you are going to kill dinner with an exploding arrow. Uh, hello real world.

I'm not going to tell you about the story. I'm going to tell you to read it. It's an experience. If you've enjoyed the Hunger Games series thus far, you won't be disappointed with this book. Well, you may not be happy with all that happens in it, but that's because you love the characters so much. Right? Right.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday

Jump on the YAHighway with me, lovelies. It's Road Trip Wednesday! This week's topic:

What's the best book you read in August?

Wait. What did I read in August? *rummages through blog* Oh, yeah, Mockingjay -- that is coming tomorrow. For now, let's suffice it to say: unfreakingbelieveable.

A very close second would be 13 Reasons Why. That was such a good book.

The Sky is Everywhere. It was an excellent book.  I just finished it last night. Not only had I heard wonderful things about this novel, but the rating on Goodreads is practically through the roof. I didn't think twice when I downloaded it on my nook, skipped the cover copy, and dove right in.

It just hit really close to home. It hasn't even been a year since my own brother died unexpectedly. Reading her emotions was like looking in a mirror. Well, except the whole need to kiss every boy she sees part -- that was not something I experienced.

Anyway, I couldn't read much of this book at a time. Every time I closed it I would just cry and cry and cry because I miss my own brother so much and I understand exactly what she was going through.

It was excellent -- the story was heartfelt and honest, and everyone should read it.